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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lib Dems changing an unfair system for pensioners

Nick Clegg writes in today's Telegraph on reforms being put forward by the UK Coalition so that nobody will be forced to sell their home to pay for long term care:

If you develop cancer, the NHS will pay for your care, no matter who you are and what your income.

If you develop dementia, and the care you need isn’t radiotherapy or expensive drugs but help with washing, dressing, and going to the bathroom, you could find yourself confronted with bills of more than £100,000. In fact, one in 10 older people ends up paying more than £100,000 for care.

Every year between 30,000 and 40,000 people sell their home to pay the bills: between 80 and 110 people every single day. That simply isn’t fair, and tomorrow the Government will be confirming our plans to change the system.

We will make sure no-one is forced to sell their home to pay for care in their lifetime, and no-one sees their life savings disappear just because they developed the wrong kind of illness.

He outlines the proposed changes:

At the moment, you have to pay for your care in full if you have more than £23,250 of savings. We will be raising that substantially, providing free or subsidised care to many thousands more pensioners. Under Dilnot’s proposals, almost everyone who doesn’t own their own home would get subsidised care along with those, in particular in the north, with the smallest homes.

This reform will help protect some of the least wealthy pensioners from care costs — a fact lost on those who have sometimes argued that Dilnot’s proposals are just about helping people in big expensive houses.

The next big change Dilnot proposed is standardising eligibility for care, bringing to an end the postcode lottery that sees pensioners in some parts of the country getting help while others with similar conditions do not.

And finally there’s Dilnot’s headline proposal: a cap on the amount you have to pay for care. This is not just fair: it will also enable people to protect themselves in a way they can’t at the moment, giving everyone peace of mind in their retirement. As people approach their retirement they will no longer need to live in fear of developing a long term condition and losing their life savings.

This issue is not the only problem in the care system and I suspect that as it is worked through there may be changes, but these proposals are a major step forward and should be welcomed.
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