Social care funding review welcomed

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Social care funding review welcomed

4th July 2011

A human rights expert has cautiously welcomed news that the amount of money pensioners and their families will be expected to pay towards their care in old age could be capped.

Mark McGhee  of Fentons Solicitors LLP said: “With greater longevity comes an increased reliance on care and support in later life. Costs for this care continue to rise and with the numbers of people needing support in old age also rising, a review into how this care is funded is long overdue.”

A major independent review for the elderly, carried out by economist Andrew Dilnot, has recommended that people should only be required to pay around £35,000 towards their own care costs before the state steps in to help with funding.

The new proposals suggest that the current system - where pensioners and their families only start to receive help from the state when they are down to their last £23,250 of assets - should be raised to £100,000.

“A system which refuses state support for the elderly until they are down to a little more then £20,000 is clearly flawed,” said Mark. “One in ten people aged over 65 face care costs of over £100,000 in their lifetime. Under the current system thousands of pensioners are forced to sell their homes to pay for residential home fees. This is unacceptable.”

Under the proposals, it should become possible for insurers to offer cover for care bills, with experts estimating a maximum liability of £50,000 could be insured for a one-off premium of around £17,000 on retirement.

“It is vital that this review acts to clarify the burden of the costs individuals face in old age so that people can prepare and save for all eventualities during their working lives,” said Mark. "Over the last twenty years we've seen dozens of inquiries and reviews looking into social care funding without any major breakthroughs. It is high time we recognise that without urgent action the issue of long-term care for the elderly is only going to become more and more problematic. Despite the substantial costs involved, it is paramount we build a better care service that can deal with the realities of the modern world.”

In response to the Dilnot Commission, the government and Labour leader Ed Miliband have both publicly expressed their willingness to enter cross-party talks to seek consensus on the proposals.

“It is incredibly important that these proposals are not simply shelved for a later date,” said Mark. “We need to see genuine and firm political commitment to a timetable for reform so we can make positive steps towards a fairer and more efficient funding model. Additional support must of course be given to those on the lowest levels of income but we also need to ensure a fairer and more affordable system that provides better security and gives peace of mind to everyone involved.

“Without a solution, patients as well as their families and carers up and down the country will suffer and the overall cost to the taxpayer will continue to rise,” added Mark. “In addition, the enormous pressures that are now facing long-term care for the elderly will inevitably spill over into the NHS unless there is very real action taken to shore up the entire system.”

Read more: BBC