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Sunday, May 13, 2012

A mounting crisis

Yesterday's Telegraph reported on a crisis in social care that has been building up over decades simply because successive governments have avoided making difficult decisions or have decided that solutions are too expensive.

They highlight new research that shows that Britain's crisis over caring for the elderly is mounting because of a combination of rising costs and falling house prices. The study concludes that the average proceeds from selling a home now pays for just five years of care, compared with seven years in 2007. For those in nursing homes, assets are drained yet more quickly - in three years, eight months. Five years ago, the same property sale would have funded almost five years' nursing care.

When it came to power, the Coalition decided that it wanted to change the system urgently so to reduce the cost burden to individuals, and so set up an independent commission led by economist Andrew Dilnot, which reported last July. However, last week's Queen's Speech included a new draft bill on social care, but with no commitment to changing the funding system.

The paper says that it is understood that the Treasury is blocking the Dilnot reforms because of their projected £1.7 billion cost:

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK said the findings demonstrated a "perfect storm" facing older generations, with increasing numbers losing almost everything they had worked for over a lifetime.

Each year, around 20,000 people a year are forced to sell their homes to pay for care, with one in 10 of those in care homes facing total bills of more than £100,000.

Mr Dilnot's commission recommended the capping of costs at between £35,000 and £50,000 per person, with the state paying the rest.

It also called for new means-testing thresholds, so that £100,000 could be kept in savings and assets, instead of the current cut-off of £23,500.

Mr Dilnot said: "The system of care and support is broken and it desperately needs reform - and that has been recognised by all the political parties and stakeholders. Now is the time to do it."

He said Britain should be able to celebrate the fact its population was living longer, and to build systems which supported them.

"We need a system in which people are not frightened of the future and are able to prepare for it," he said.

An issue to raise with the Secretary of State for Wales when she comes to the Assembly for the debate on the Queen's speech perhaps.
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