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Councils question whether it would be possible to raise care fee threshold

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The question of how best to fund social care continues to prompt heated debate, with senior figures within local government suggesting they could not afford an increase in state support.

Debate over how to cover the cost of fees has caused difficulties for successive administrations.

It was suggested in the current Government’s General Election manifesto that local authorities would in future provide support for those with assets of less than £100,000.

At present, the help is restricted to those with a rather smaller sum of £23,250.

The announcement was made amid growing anger about the size of bills that those who require care have to pay.

Now the County Councils Network, which represents 37 local authorities around the country, called into question the feasibility of increasing the threshold, given the strain on existing budgets.

Colin Noble, the leader of Suffolk Council, acknowledged that “catastrophic” care costs need to be limited, but suggested that the changes proposed could push some care providers to the brink of financial ruin.

“Substantial reductions to social care budgets have left councils with little choice but to negotiate lower fees for their taxpayers’ money, but this means the system is being propped up by private fee payers,” he said. “This is clearly unsustainable, with many care home providers at a very real risk of collapse.”

Analysis suggests that the gulf between privately-paid fees and those covered by the local authority had climbed to £607million a year across the 37 county council areas.

The fear is that increasing the number of people entitled to financial support, which is something many consumer groups have been pushing for, could lead to an additional bill of £308million.