THE cost of personal care at home in Worcestershire is among the highest in the country as pensioners face a postcode lottery.

The hourly cost of personal care in the county is £20.60 an hour, the third highest for a council in England and Wales. Only Bridgend and Derbyshire had higher hourly charges for 2013.

The figures have been published in Which? magazine, as part of an investigation into ‘fair care’, which follows freedom of information requests by the publication. The costs refer to the expense of people living independently in their own homes. In contrast, Tower Hamlets Borough Council, in London has maintained a zero charge policy while Pembrokeshire County Council charges £6.05.

Worcestershire County Council plans to save £98 million from spending by 2017 due to unprecedented cuts in funding from central government.

Of those cutbacks, £32 million needs to be saved from adult services, which includes social care and help for the vulnerable.

The council wants to reduce at-home care and urge more people to use new technology, as well as get volunteers to do routine checks on friends, family and neighbours.

Brian Hunt, vice-chairman of Worcestershire Pensioners’ Action Group, said: “The county council are saying they want to be commissioners only, paying for services rather than providing them directly. We’re saying it’s privatisation by another means. They are going to price people out of the ability to buy care services so they will have reduced services. I can’t see the prices coming down.”

However, Mr Hunt welcomed the use of means-tested assessments.

A spokesperson for Worcestershire County Council said: "The report refers to charges for home care. While £20.60 per hour is the maximum charge that people could pay, it is important to note that only two per cent of current service users are charged this amount. The cost is based on a financial assessment of someone's ability to pay. In Worcestershire 45 per cent of people do not pay anything towards their services.

“In Worcestershire the £20.60 charge is the actual average cost of home care across all service users, regardless of disability. “For example, this will include people who need two carers to provide home care. The charge was implemented following an extensive consultation exercise in 2011.”