Inside Out: London's elderly care 'lottery' revealed

The amount the elderly pay for care varies widely from borough to borough

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Care for the elderly in London remains a postcode lottery, a BBC Inside Out research suggests.

The Local Government Association estimates that there has been a £1bn reduction in English councils' current social care budgets since the government's spending review in 2010.

That has put extra pressure on care, which the LGA says is already under-funded.

But the deal you get appears to depend on where you live.

The situation is exemplified by comparing Barking and Dagenham with the neighbouring east London borough of Redbridge.

In Barking, residents qualify for council help if they have substantial needs.

But in Redbridge, they are only assisted if they are more unwell - with what is defined as "greater-substantial" needs.

Barking resident Margaret is cared for seven days a week, after her breathing condition was assessed as severe enough to qualify for help.

She said: "Definitely they do help. They help me making coffee, with the washing - shopping is the biggest help ever."

But in Redbridge, Leslie and Frances Gilbert receive no assistance.

That is despite the fact that Mr Gilbert is a full-time carer for his wife, who has leukaemia and MS.

'Grossly unfair'

Mr Gilbert said: "We've obviously been in touch with local social services and we know what is available to us - which is very, very little.

"My wife is completely disabled. I would say that the classification assessment is entirely wrong."

The couple say that with no financial help from the council they are fast running out of savings.

Yet if they lived in neighbouring Barking and Dagenham they would be more likely to qualify for help.

Mr Gilbert described it as "grossly unfair".

Old ladies Just four London boroughs provide care to elderly people with moderate needs

Until five years ago, older people with substantial needs in Redbridge would have qualified for help. But in 2007 the council made the criteria stricter.

A spokeswoman for Redbridge Council said: "The council takes into account a range of issues when it sets its budget each year.

"This includes matching the needs of the local population to the resources available, including changes to a considerable number of government grants."

She added: "The council is committed to meeting the needs of older people in a range of ways.

"The last national survey of satisfaction carried out showed that a high proportion of Redbridge residents surveyed were very satisfied with the quality of care they received from the council."

In 2005, some 13 of London's 32 councils provided care to people with moderate needs.

Caring for vulnerable

Now only four boroughs do so; Kensington and Chelsea, Islington, Sutton and Hammersmith, and Fulham.

Some 38% of local council budgets are spent on caring for the vulnerable, but the amount spent on the elderly fluctuates from borough to borough.

Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Islington are London's three highest-spending boroughs, with an outlay of more than £2,000 on care per over-65 in 2010/2011.

But the lowest spending trio, Havering, Croydon and Bexley, each spent less than £800-per-capita.

Some 26 out of the 32 authorities now expect pensioners with savings above £23,000 to pay for all of their care.

Government promise

Five of the other councils will still make a contribution to the care of elderly who possess such a sum, but the amount varies.

Greenwich Council expects pensioners to pay £520 per week towards their care before they contribute, while Newham asks for £200 to be spent weekly. By contrast, Tower Hamlets pays the entirety of care costs even for people with such savings.

The government has promised legislation to tackle the apparent postcode lottery.

Care minister Norman Lamb said: "I don't think it is acceptable that the level of care need that entitles you to support from your local authority depends on where you live.

"This is why the government has recognised that - and is introducing a common standard across the country."

Inside Out looks at some radical solutions to the problem of funding elderly care in the future on BBC One at 19:30 BST on Monday.

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