Middle classes: no help with elderly care
Filed under: Retirement
So what are they suggesting, and what is going to happen?
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Initial White PaperThe reports are the latest salvo in a very public row over Andrew Dilnot's White Paper for the government, on how the social care system for the elderly ought to be reformed.
He proposed introducing a cap on the amount anyone would have to pay for their own care, at £35,000. It also said that the means-tested threshold of assets you are allowed to have before you become liable for paying for care should be raised from the current level of £23,000 to £100,000. He calculated that these changes would cost the government 1.7 billion.
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Pressure to reformThe cost of these proposals are said to have come as a nasty surprise to the government. Already its response to the White Paper has been delayed. A white paper is expected in June, but even this is not expected to contain a response to the Dilnot proposals.
Earlier this week, 85 social groups (including Age UK and Saga) signed a letter to the government, published in the Daily Mail, putting pressure on David Cameron to commit to radical reform. It called for Cameron to have the "vision and courage", to make social care reform his "legacy to future generations."
It added: "Social care is in crisis - the system is chronically under-funded and in urgent need of reform. Without this, too many older and disabled people will be left in desperate circumstances: struggling on alone, living in misery and fear."
Opposition to reformOne of the reports yesterday was a direct response to this letter. Prof Philip Booth, Editorial and Programme Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: "Although it is regrettable, it is not without good reason that successive governments have kicked the issue of social care into the long grass for nearly 20 years. The financial consequences of mistaken reforms would be dire.... If social care financing were to be reformed in such a way that the state paid a bigger share of the cost, the consequences for future generations could be disastrous."
The second report, from the Centre for Social Justice, weighs in on the same side, arguing that the reforms proposed are unaffordable. It was making the point that the government cannot afford to help everyone at the moment, and that the needs of the poorest people who don't have any way of paying for care should come ahead of the middle classes.
The report found that in many cases social care provided by councils to 1.2 million older people is failing them miserably. 'Flying' home care visits and underfunded care home places are symptomatic of a system which has not received the kind of investment demanded by the rapid ageing of the population. It argued that given this crisis, protecting the assets of elderly homeowners should not be the number one priority.
Christian Guy, the Managing Director of the CSJ, said: "Our social care system is on life support and public money is in short supply. Years of political paralysis must now come to an end.... Understandably, there is a lot of concern about better-off pensioners being forced to sell their homes and use the proceeds to pay for their care until they drop below the means-tested threshold. But Ministers should make the most vulnerable people and the unacceptable conditions they face their first priority, then phase in the Dilnot recommendations so that help can be extended to all."
"If they do not then inexcusable standards will persist and their much vaunted NHS reforms are doomed to fail because hospitals will be swamped by expensive new demands from near destitute old people with no where else to go."
So what is going to happen?We can expect a great deal more noise in the coming weeks as this argument is thrashed out in public and debated behind closed doors. The White Paper in June is likely to give us some idea of where the Government is heading on this.
So far there is every sign that the reforms will be watered down, and that the middle classes may well bear the brunt. As ever, if you were hoping for the government to help support you in your old age, you're in for a nasty surprise.