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A new survey of care provided by local councils, published today by Labour, reveals shocking increases and wide disparities in charges for services for vulnerable elderly and disabled people.

Councils are increasing charges for:
- home care: the average hourly charge is now £13.49, a rise of 6% since 2009/10
- meals on wheels: the average charge is now £3.44 per meal, a rise of 13%
- transport: for example to day centres: the average charge for a journey is now £2.32, a rise of 33%

These increases mean the average yearly cost for an older or disabled person who pays for 10 hours of home care a week is now £7,015 a year.

Older or disabled people who also get meals on wheels every day now pay an average of £8,271 a year.

With transport charges to go to a day centre three times a week an older or disabled person now pays £8,633 per year.

There are huge differences in the price people pay for care, depending on where they live. This ranges from free home care in Tower Hamlets to care costing £20.34 per hour in Cheshire East. This means an older or disabled person in Cheshire East receiving 10 hours of care per week could be liable for charges up to £10,577 per year when they would receive free home care in Tower Hamlets.

Some councils limit the weekly costs people are required to pay, ranging from a cap of £105 per week in Hackney to £900 per week in Brighton and Hove.

Four out of ten Councils who had a cap in 2009/10 have increased it, and another four out of ten have abolished caps on charges altogether, leaving people to face all the costs of their care.

The survey also indicates that the number of vulnerable older and disabled people receiving services free of charge has dropped significantly, by more than 15 percent since 2009/10.

Liz Kendall MP, Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, said:

“These increases in home care charges for older and disabled people are a stealth tax on the most vulnerable people in society.

"More people are having to pay more for vital services such as help getting up, washed and dressed, meals on wheels, and transport to day centres. These services are a lifeline for older and disabled people and are crucial in helping them live independently in their own homes.

"And the huge variations in the costs of care across the country mean elderly and disabled people face a post-code lottery, through no fault of their own.

“The Conservative-led Government is out of touch with the growing crisis in care.

"Their brutal cuts to funding for local council services for older people - £1.3 billion already this Parliament - are pushing up charges and placing an even greater burden on the people who most need help.

"David Cameron must act urgently to tackle the care crisis now. And he must engage in serious cross party talks about how we can secure a fair and sustainable way to fund social care in the future."

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