Pensions fall short of rising Belgian care home costs

Pensions fall short of rising Belgian care home costs
Credit: Belga

Daily rates in several residential care homes in Belgium will strongly increase in the coming months, mainly as a result of the rising energy prices.

While the average pension in Belgium is already far below the price of accommodation in a residential care home, the gap is widening even further now that many homes in Flanders are adjusting their prices.

"Costs are rising, we have no choice," Roel Eerlingen of Integro, which runs nine care homes in Limburg, said on Flemish radio. "We have 1,200 employees, whose wages are all indexed, and our energy costs are rising. It is a dire necessity to be able to continue our operations."

Yet, the daily rates are not increasing in all residencies: a care home is allowed to make an indexation twice a year but is not obliged to do so.

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The Antwerp Care Company recently decided to charge 8% more on the bill for residents, which results in up to more than €100 extra per month. The average employee pension is far below the cost of living in a care homes

Even if that pension is also indexed, the gap between that average pension and the price of accommodation in a residential care home will continue to widen, according to Johan Staes, delegate director of the Flemish Independent Care Network.

"The pensions in Flanders are far too low," he told VRT. "And the accommodation is very expensive because it is a secure environment with 24/7 care. And of course, residents pay their own living costs, meals, cleaning, etc., which is included in the daily price."

Adjustments come 'far too late'

Care home residents receive a budget of €130 from the Flemish Government, a measure which has existed for more than 20 years and it has increased by barely €5 over that time, said Staes. "It only seems logical to me that if everything becomes more expensive, the care home resident budget also increases."

A few weeks ago, Flemish Welfare Minister Wouter Beke already announced that the care budget for dependents will be adjusted. The negotiations within the government are currently ongoing, and the amounts for residents with a low pension would be significantly higher by 2024 at the latest.

For Staes, however, that is "far too late," as it will not help the nursing home residents today. "The care budget must be adjusted now, and I think there are still social measures to be taken."

He refers to the energy bill, for example: "the Federal Government has not thought of reducing the VAT on energy for residential care homes and assisted living facilities. And I can list numerous other social measures that are possible."

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