The government was accused last night of leaving growing numbers of elderly people in the dark over how they will pay for their care in old age.

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Reaction from Norfolk organisations

Charities, council officials and people across Norfolk digested the care options being considered by the government yesterday, with changes likely to be implemented from 2015.

But concerns were raised about the missing details explaining how care is to be funded – information not expected to be available until the next Parliament.

Norfolk County Council was aware of 3,368 people who funded their own care in 2011/12, with a further 25,193 people who received cash.

And Phil Wells, Age UK Norwich chief executive, said he was broadly in favour of a care cap although disagreed with a £100,000 limit and preferred the Dilnot Commission’s recommended £35,000 limit.

He said having a limit would help people to budget or buy insurance for when they get older and need help.

Mr Wells also backed a higher means-tested threshold, which assesses the value of a person’s assets and whether they qualify for cash to help fund their care.

This could be increased to £100,000 from £23,500.

But Mr Wells said those in power needed to find an answer to how care was funded, within the constraints of public finance.

He said: “I can understand the government will find it difficult to set a limit when it has other funding priorities, and older people are not a high priority for the government it seems. We await that with enormous interest.

“The other side is that the funding of adult social care is a much bigger problem for a significant number of people.

“For those who clearly don’t have the funds to pay for their own social care, the whole idea of a cap is irrelevant. What is more interesting is how social care will be funded.

“We are getting older people living longer and living longer with adult social care needs – we are quite good at keeping people alive but we are not quite so good at keeping them healthy. That’s a hugely growing problem.

“The question for most older people is not ‘how much will I pay for my care’ but ‘will there be any care available to me?’.

“None of this is being addressed. There’s a deafening silence, which is understandable, as other things seem to be a government priority in spending money.”

David Harwood, adult and community services cabinet member at Norfolk County Council, said he was interested to find out more about a £200m fund that could create specialised housing for older and disabled people.

He said this was because the council-owned Norse Care is investing in and replacing “its aging care accommodation” in the county.

Mr Harwood said: “The pledge to create double the number of apprenticeships in the social work profession is important, as it will not only help meet the increasing demand for social care that is anticipated but also help ensure quality and training remain at the heart of the profession.”

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has delayed taking a final decision on capping the sky-high bills pensioners in care homes currently face until the next spending review, but indicated the limit could be set as high as £100,000.

Mr Lansley said the publication of a white paper was “a watershed moment”, but charities poured scorn on his claim, pointing out that no real clarity had been given on how the ever-growing costs of caring for the elderly would be met.

Phil Wells, Age UK Norwich chief executive, said: “The question for most older people is not ‘how much will I pay for my care’ but ‘will there be any care available to me?’.

“None of this is being addressed. There’s a deafening silence, which is understandable, as other things seem to be a government priority in spending money.”

Meanwhile, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Julia Unwin said: “We are deeply frustrated that more progress has not been made, and that the decision on how to pay for long-term care has been postponed yet again. The secretary of state says this is a watershed moment. It is not.”

Concerns were raised after the government indicated the cap on the amount any individual would pay for care costs in the future could be set three times higher than the level recommended by an independent commission.

Meanwhile, thousands of people already paying for care across the region were given a strong signal that money they have already spent will not be taken into account by the government in deciding the point at which they qualify for state help.

Under the current system anyone with assets of more then £23,250 is expected to pay the entire cost of their own care. But individuals have been struggling to meet the bill, with 40,000 forced every year to sell their homes as a result.

Meanwhile, the ageing population means government is faced with a spiralling bill for supporting those who do not pay for themselves.

Last year an independent commission tasked by the government to resolve the problem suggested anyone with assets exceeding £100,000 in value should meet the first £35,000 cost of their own care. After that level, the so-called ‘cap’, the state would pick up the bill.

But while the government said no decision to introduce a cap had been taken, documents released yesterday suggested ministers were exploring the idea of making people pay £75,000, or even £100,000, before they received state help.

Meanwhile they also suggested only money spent after a cap policy was introduced would be counted towards people’s personal contributions to their care.

It means that someone, for example, who has spent £35,000 on care when a £35,000 cap came in, would then have to spend the same amount again before getting any help from the state.

Speaking to the Eastern Daily Press, Mr Lansley said: “What the progress report illustrates is that there are some practical difficulties with trying to construct a cap which related to the past, as opposed to one in which once [the cap] is introduced the clock started ticking.”

He added: “There are very large deadweight costs associated with trying to give people access to a cap on debt when assimilating [money people have spent in the past] - it’s intensely difficult in practical terms.”

3 comments

  • Dilnot thinks the cost will be about £1.7million which is about half of the money given away to millionaires and bankers in this year's budget.The government of the millionaires and bankers is trying to paint all pensioners and disabled people as rich and feather-bedded.£100,000 would bankrupt most of us.

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    Peter Watson

    Thursday, July 12, 2012

  • Do they think because we're old we're stupid? We shall still lose our houses, and in the meantime the council (lender) is making yet more money out of us. Seems the sensible way to live is for the moment, as you'll be no worse off in the end. Those of us who have saved for retirement, and particularly those with only modest savings, are being penalised and having to subsidise those who chose the other way. We want to know where we stand, not be constantly fobbed by people who can't do sums or make decisions.

    Report this comment

    Sylviab

    Thursday, July 12, 2012

  • UK tax gap at £35 billion for 2009 - 10 (HMRC).

    Report this comment

    Joyce

    Thursday, July 12, 2012

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