Advising with empathy and experience

Top-up fees, the secret subsidy.


Estimates suggest that 56,000 families are paying an extra sum to the care home looking after their loved one. Although such payments are supposed to be voluntary the reality is that many are not. The charity Independent Age has identified these top-up payments as a “secret subsidy”.

Independent Age recently conducted a survey of local authorities which exposes a picture of some confusion amongst Councils. 129 authorities responded to the Freedom of Information request but only 36 said they knew all about top-up payments in their area.

Only 1 in 4 Councils said they directed families to independent advice before agreeing top-up fees. 1 in 5 carried out annual checks to ensure that families were still able to afford to pay.

Almost a third of Councils (36) said they had no information about top-up fees.

The charity, Independent Age, says that the correct interpretation of official guidance is that any arrangement should be monitored by the Council which must anyway contract with the home for the full fee.

Rachel Griffiths for the CNCI Team commented on the issue “Families are obviously keen to ensure that their loved ones receive an excellent level of care in comfortable surroundings. Families are often willing to pay more to secure this quality. In many cases family members are being asked to pay when there is no obligation to do so. It is imperative that Local Authorities are able to advise families about their responsibilities and entitlements so that they can make informed choices about care arrangements. Anyone who believes they may have been wrongly asked to pay a top-up fee should seek advice”.