How much should you pay for care in your own home as you get older – from getting in and out of bed to taking medication or help with shopping? And how do you find a carer? With adult social care in crisis as local authorities struggle to meet soaring demand at a time of cutbacks, Guardian Money tested prices and services in a town with a high density of older people: Eastbourne in East Sussex.

Pinning down providers about their precise charges, however, proved tougher than we expected. Someone needing personal care for just one hour a day could be billed more than £7,500 a year by an agency. But we also found high-quality services for half that – with the emergence of independent “personal assistants” who contract directly with the individual, often at much below the rate charged by the big agencies. The highest bills we saw were for a live-in care assistant. One agency told us the annual cost starts at £1,500 a week, equal to £78,000 a year.

Several agencies, some local to Eastbourne but others operating across the UK, declined to give us prices. Many insist on meeting a potential client in their home before agreeing a price, which while understandable given the wide variety of needs that an older person may have, makes it difficult for families to carry out proper cost comparisons. On top of that, care is not just about cost – personal recommendations can be crucial, as well as the overall quality of care.

Read More>