Care homes warn they're cutting back on food and could close as cost of living compromises care

UK Editor Paul Brand heard from staff at a home in Scarborough, where the cost of caring has shot up

Care homes are having to cut back on food and may face closure due to the rising cost of living, according to exclusive research for ITV News.

A survey of homes carried out by the Independent Care Group found 96% are experiencing soaring costs, from energy to staffing.

The research found 93% said they are having to make cut backs as a result, including making staff redundant and having to reduce the quality and quantity of food for residents.

At Normanby House in Scarborough, their energy bills have soared by 165% alone in the past four years.

The energy price cap is not currently extended to care homes and their bills are set to rise significantly further this autumn.

'They're on constantly, you can't limit the number of times you put a wash on'

The care home's operations manager, Laura Clegg, told ITV News: "It’s not like when we’re at home we can turn down a degree or two just to save money.

"We can’t do that here because obviously the change in temperature will be felt really severely by the residents. If we have a light off then it’s a trip hazard, they could fall and have an accident."

Care homes must also provide residents with a high calorie, well balanced diet. But at Normanby House the chef is having to find substitutes for some of his staples.

Dave Higgins said: "Ordinary blocks of butter started off at £40 a case and now it’s up to something like £72.

"It's hard because you want to give the best to the residents. It upsets you when you do something and you think 'oh am I doing the right thing for them, am I giving the best I can?'"

'It's hard because you want to give your best to the residents'

A total 93% of homes which responded to our survey also said they were experiencing extreme staffing problems due to carers leaving to find better pay elsewhere.

Some homes have lost up to 60% of their workforce.

Normanby House has given its staff three pay rises this year, with a further 30p per hour rise due shortly.

But pay still lags behind price rises and the home now has to spend five times more on agency staff than it did before the pandemic to help plug the vacancies.

UK Editor Paul Brand explains what care homes believe the government can do to help

Phil McMullen has been a carer at Normanby House for just over two years, but he is considering returning to his previous job in a supermarket, where the pay is better.

He said: "The financial aspects of it are quite tough and, like I say, it is quite scary.

"I would think long and hard about having to leave it and go back to working in a supermarket, something like that. It’s not easy, its not something I want to give up."

He has diabetes and is currently on a waiting list for a kidney transplant, meaning he needs to carefully manage his diet and keep his home warm.

'The financial aspects of it are quite tough'

Rising costs aren't just affecting care homes but those who live in them too.

81% of homes in our survey said they would have to increase fees for residents, with rises of between 5% and 15%.

Lauren's Gillard’s grandfather Les already pays £975 per week. She is having to sell his home to cover the costs and worries what will happen if his savings run out.

"I’ve been reassured that he won’t be thrown out on the streets – but where is the money going to come from?"

She added: "He’s my absolute world. They brought me up otherwise myself and my brother would have been in care ourselves.

"They gave everything for us and I do live with the guilt because I couldn’t keep him at home, in his own home."

'He's my absolute world... where's the money going to come from?'

Mike Padgham, who runs Normanby House and established the Independent Care Group, says despite pledges made during the pandemic to prioritise the care sector, it is being overlooked.

He says homes are already having to close due to rising costs.

This week, Mr Padgham wrote to the Health Secretary calling for immediate measures to help ease the crisis, such as extending the energy price cap to care homes.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know

Responding to our survey, the Department for Health and Social Care said: "No national government can control the global factors pushing up the price of energy, but we will continue to support businesses, including care homes, in navigating the months ahead.

“This includes doubling our support for high energy usage businesses, reducing employer national insurance by increasing the Employment Allowance, slashing fuel duty, introducing a 50% business rates relief and putting the brakes on bill increases by freezing the business rates multiplier - worth £4.6 billion over the next five years.

“We have also made over £1 billion available specifically for adult social care this year via the Local Government Finance Settlement.”