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The average price of a care home rises to £35,000 a year – and many will pay even more

Latest figures show care home fees are still rising, but the average UK rates tell only part of the story

The average price of a care home rises to £35,000 a year – and many will pay even more

Anyone who has looked for a care home knows how expensive they can be. And to make matters even more financially challenging, care home fees often increase year on year. In 2019-20, the average cost of a residential care home for an older person in the UK increased to £672 a week. Or, put another way, the average cost hit £34,944 a year.

According to research by LaingBuisson*, average fees in 2019-20 were over 3% higher than the previous year, when the average was £651 a week.

And for those who need a nursing home – a care home with round-the-clock nursing care – the costs are even greater. The average cost of a nursing home in 2019-20 was £937 a week, or £48,724 a year: a rise of almost 5% on the previous year.

Average UK weekly care home & nursing home fees

Year ending 31 March Care homes Annual increase Nursing homes Annual increase
2012 £521 3.8% £705 2.0%
2013 £539 3.5% £722 2.4%
2014 £556 3.2% £737 2.1%
2015 £562 1.1% £762 3.4%
2016 £580 3.2% £787 3.3%
2017 £608 3.8% £829 5.3%
2018 £622 2.3% £856 3.3%
2019 £651 4.7% £893 4.3%
2020 £672 3.2% £937 4.7%

Source: Care Homes for Older People, UK Market Report, LaingBuisson

The fees quoted here are averages for the whole market. This includes the fees that local authorities pay to care homes and the fees paid by self-funders. But self-funders typically pay more for a care home than a local authority will – over 30% more on average – so self-funders generally face even higher costs than the average prices quoted here.

Postcode lottery

The average UK rates tell only part of the care home fees story. There are major regional differences across the UK, which means that where you live has a big impact on the cost of your care.

The average cost of a residential care home in 2019-20 ranged from £551 a week in Northern Ireland to £858 in Scotland. That’s a difference of £307 a week, or almost £16,000 a year. For nursing homes, average fees ranged from £735 a week in Northern Ireland to £937 in England.

However, in Scotland, if you’ve been assessed as needing it, you can claim personal care payments and possibly nursing care payments to contribute towards the cost of your care home.

But it’s not just a question of which country you live in. Fees can vary from one county to another, and even from one local authority area to another.

Within England, average fees in London, the south and the East of England are considerably higher than costs in the north. For example, a care home in the South East averaged £840 a week (without nursing care), while the equivalent charge in the North West was £562 – a striking difference of £14,456 a year.

Find out the cost of care where you live

If you live in England, our cost of care and eligibility calculator can tell you how much care costs where you live, and whether you would be eligible for local authority support. You’ll also find practical advice on your next steps.

Will you have to pay for your own care?

While healthcare is provided free by the NHS, most of us will have to pay some or all of the costs of our own social care in later life.

Local authorities will provide financial support for people whose assets and income are below a set amount, but the rules can be complicated, and different thresholds apply in different parts of the UK. And even if you do qualify for council support, you may still have to contribute some of your income towards the costs.

In certain circumstances, the NHS will cover the cost of care for people with complex health needs – but the eligibility criteria are strict.

What is the government’s position?

The rising cost of care in later life is one of the biggest financial challenges facing many people in the UK.

In 2019-20 local authorities in England received almost two million requests for adult social care support. And councils in England are currently funding around 150,000 older people in care homes. But while the numbers of older people who need support is rising, the funding available to support them has fallen in real terms over the past decade, as local councils juggle increasingly stretched budgets. At the same time, self-funders are increasingly expected to prop up the system by paying ever-rising care fees.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the vitally important role that social care plays as well as the pressures that it faces – including lack of funding, rising prices, staff shortages and, in some cases, concerns about the quality of care.

The current government, has pledged to ‘fix social care’, but no concrete proposals or timeframe have yet been released. In February 2021, however, the government committed to bringing forward proposals to reform the sector before the end of the year.


*All data from Care Homes for Older People, UK Market Report – LaingBuisson, January 2021

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