UK pensioners are being forced to haggle for social care due to a huge variation in the levels of funding provided by councils, according to research by Royal London.
After sending freedom of information requests to 150 English local authorities, it was found that some have a fixed ceiling for the amount they will pay, while others have no limit, and some decide on a case-by-case basis.
This has resulted in some people having to negotiate with their council in order to get a good deal, leaving those that do not have family members in vulnerable positions, and at risk of missing out on care.
"We have uncovered a disturbing patchwork of support for people needing residential care, which varies hugely depending on where you live," Royal London director of policy, Steve Webb, said.
"The most worrying variation is the extent to which residents are expected to haggle with the council in some parts of the country."
Some of the local authorities that have a fixed funding limit include Blackpool, Bury and Luton, while Buckinghamshire, Cornwall and Croydon have no ceiling.
Oxfordshire, Poole, Solihull and Sandwell say that they have a funding limit, however, this is exceeded in 94%, 84%, 74% and 56% of their cases respectively.
"Local authorities must be very careful to ensure they do not take advantage of the poor bargaining power of vulnerable elderly people, leading them to accept the cheapest care provision rather than the most suitable," Webb added.
This comes after a report released last month by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) identified an annual funding shortfall of £1bn in the UK's social care system.
It revealed that care homes are charging those that can afford to pay for themselves an average of £44,000 per year for care - 40% higher than local authorities are charged.
This suggests pay limits that councils set for care could be stretched even further if they were charged the same as some members of the public, with the CMA arguing that the system is "unsustainable without additional funding".
"Without substantial reform to the way councils plan and commission care, and greater confidence the costs will be covered, the UK won't be able to meet the growing needs of its ageing population," CMA chief executive, Andrea Coscelli, said.