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Age Concern - MPs back increase to measly personal expenses allowance for care home residents

Age Concern and Help the Aged has welcomed support from the Work and Pensions Select Committee for an urgent increase to the Personal Expenses Allowance (PEA) that 240‚000 pensioner care home residents will receive this year.

The Select Committee report‚ Tackling Pensioner Poverty‚ rightly agrees the level of PEA is far too low for care home residents to live dignified lives and calls for it to be increased to £40 a week.  PEA is the allowance older care home residents with savings of less than £23‚000 get after they surrender their pensions and most of their assets to pay for care home fees. 

Under national means-testing rules‚ older people are left with a measly £21.90 to pay for essential personal items such as clothes‚ hairdressing‚ toiletries and reading materials.  Even worse‚ all too often older residents have to make the money stretch to essential services such as toenail cutting and chiropody.

Following a concerted campaign by Age Concern and Help the Aged to highlight the inadequacy of the PEA‚ the charity has accused ministers of betraying vulnerable care home residents.  Earlier this year‚ ministers reneged on previous commitments to consult on the level of the PEA and failed to address the issue in care and support Green Paper‚ published earlier this month. 

Andrew Harrop‚ Head of Public Policy at Age Concern and Help the Agedsaid:  “The Government must listen to the Committee’s request to bring the PEA to a decent level.  Yet again‚ thousands of care home residents are expected to manage on a pitifully small amount for buying day-to-day essentials items to lead dignified lives.
“If the Government is serious about enabling older people in residential care to live with dignity‚ it should start by giving people an adequate sum of money to live on.”

To add your voice to the campaign‚ please sign up via our website at www.ageconcern.org.uk/PEA or by emailing campaigns@ace.org.uk.

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Notes to Editors

Age Concern England and Help the Aged have joined together to form a single charity dedicated to improving the lives of older people.

Tackling Pensioner Poverty‚ a report from the Parliamentary Work and Pensions Select Committee was published 30 July 2009. 

  1. 240‚000 older people are affected by the Personal Expenses Allowance. Under national means-testing rules‚ people with savings of less than £22‚250 have to surrender their pensions and most of their assets to pay for their care home fees. They are then entitled to retain £21.15 per week for their personal expenses for the year April 2008-April 2009.  The Government ups the level of Personal Expenses Allowance once a year at the same time it increases other state benefits. This benefit is increased by average earnings.  Slightly different rules apply in Scotland‚ Wales and Northern Ireland.
  2. Commitments were given by the then Minister for Care Services‚ Ivan Lewis MP‚ who was replaced by Phil Hope MP in the autumn reshuffle:
    • In January 2008‚ he gave an undertaking to Parliament to carry out a 12 week consultation in early 2008 on changes to the Charging for Residential Accommodation Guide (CRAG)‚ including the level of PEA. (Official Report‚ 7 January 2008‚ col. 103W )
    • In June 2008‚ he gave a further undertaking to Parliament to carry out a public consultation before the end of the year. Again‚ no such consultation has taken place. (Official Report‚ 5 June 2008‚ col. 1103W )
  3. The Personal Expenses Allowance is supposed to be used for any items that the resident wishes to purchase‚ such as toiletries‚ all clothes‚ papers‚ books and magazines‚ presents for family‚ transport‚ telephone calls‚ hobbies etc.
  4. Average weekly fees for a residential care home is £464 and £664 for a nursing home in England (Laing and Bussion 2008).
  5. As long ago as 1996 research by the Family Budget Unit considered that £38 per week would be needed to provide a modest but adequate income based on a shopping basket of such goods. The PEA has come under scrutiny of the Work and Pensions Select Committee which asked for research ‘to establish the amount necessary to enable pensioners in institutional care to live their lives with dignity’.

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