OAP foster caring scheme could be launched in Leicester
Families could be paid to look after older people in a scheme similar to child fostering under plans being considered by the city council.
The authority is exploring the possibility of extending its existing Shared Lives project, which sees adults with disabilities or mental health issues taken into carers' homes.
The expansion of the scheme would see people with spare rooms invited to house someone aged 65 or over who might otherwise be moved into one of the eight care homes run by the council.
The authority's social care and housing scrutiny commission is assessing whether the idea, which is already used by some other authorities, could work here.
Commission chairman Councillor Lynn Moore said: "The idea is very similar to fostering a child, but with older people.
"It is never going to be a substitute for residential homes and it can't replace nursing care to look after very dependent older people. It would be another thing to put on our menu when looking at care options.
"There are quite independent older people who, for whatever reason, cannot any longer look after themselves but really don't like the idea of going into a home.
"Other councils have gone down this route and I am a great believer in taking on good ideas.
"It would need people with a spare room and a big heart and maybe looking for another income.
"There would have to be some private space for the older person but they would have the comfort of knowing there was somebody on the other side of the door to help them when they need it."
Under the scheme, the council would pay for en suite bathrooms to be installed to make homes suitable and there would be an ongoing payment to fosterers for bills and food.
Forty-three adults – with different disabilities – are being looked after through the existing Shared Lives scheme.
A council spokeswoman said: "Current payment rates for supporting an older person start at £224 a week.
"However, payment is linked to service user needs and the maximum banded rate for older people is £320 a week."
Leicestershire Age UK director Tony Donovan said the scheme was worth considering but should be approached "with a degree of caution".
He said: "People continue to age. A person can be in good health at 75 but that will not always be the case.
"Their needs will grow and that could put a greater strain on the carer.
"A house may need more adaptation to meet those changing needs.
"It is something which needs to be looked at with a critical eye."
Assistant city mayor Rita Patel, who is responsible for adult social care, said: "There would have to be very rigorous checks on the carers and their homes to make sure we would be putting people into a safe environment. That is already done with fostering young people.
"The needs of the older people would be the top priority."
The scrutiny commission is set to complete its report by May.
Officials have looked into the possibility of selling eight council-run residential homes – currently with about 134 residents – to private care providers, charities or public sector organisations.
No decision on their future has been made yet.