More elderly people are to be forced to pay for care homes because of funding decisions slipped through by the Government.
Ministers have effectively lowered the amount of savings individuals can have before they become liable for their own fees.
Some 250,000 people over 65 are thought to have their residential care funded by councils.
Charges are based on a means test, under which anyone with savings and assets – including property – worth more than £23,250 must pay the full sum until the value has been reduced below the threshold.
Normally, the limit increases each year to take account of inflation and rising values of assets, but the coalition has quietly decided to freeze the level for at least two years. A lower capital limit of £14,250 – above which councils pay part of the fees – has also been frozen.
The decision was disclosed in a Department of Health document seen by the Daily Telegraph. Dated January 28, it makes clear that the move is to raise more money from elderly people. “In the context of the Spending Review 2010, ministers have taken the decision not to increase the capital limits,” it says. “The intention is to help protect the level and quality of social care services by enabling local authorities to raise additional revenue to pay for these services, from residential care charges.”
The capital limits will not be reviewed until the next local government finance settlement in the autumn of 2012, according to the document.
A DoH spokesman said: “People who get local authority care now won’t lose it – their costs will continue to be paid. The difficult decision on thresholds been taken in light of the current economic situation.”
The department stressed that funding was being focused on modernising the care system and most residents would only pay for one more week of care due to the freeze.
Care homes are said to cost £25,000 a year on average and the figure can be double that in the South East.