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My letter to Boris: Elderly healthcare MUST be high on your agenda as PM

PUBLISHED: 17:32 24 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:32 24 July 2019

Newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson arrives at Conservative party HQ in Westminster, London, after it was announced that he had won the leadership ballot and will become the next prime minister

Newly elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson arrives at Conservative party HQ in Westminster, London, after it was announced that he had won the leadership ballot and will become the next prime minister

Boris is in - and he's listed a number of things he and his party are going to fix. Rachel Moore says he should have one priority

Dear Mr Johnson,

As your belongings are being moved into Number 10 today, I hope you will remember your promise if you became prime minister - to address urgently what you described as a social care "crisis" for the elderly.

As you settle into your new home, more than 338,520 elderly people have sold theirs to pay for their care.

My family is among them.

You declared you would build a cross-party consensus on social care. "We need to get everybody together to find a solution to this because it is a crisis in our country," you said.

Your rival, Jeremy Hunt, as former health secretary responsible for the nation's health services, even admitted some cuts had gone too far.

Money families are now paying for care, when the state would have paid previously, is spiralling, with self-funders increasing by 95% in the last 11 years.

They are paying average fees of £846 a week, £44,000 a year, £12,000 more a year than those funded by the state for the same care. Families are paying twice as much on relatives' care than 10 years ago.

This might not be an issue of concern for you and your family, Mr Johnson, because of your considerable buffer of family wealth. Your earnings of £780,000 in the nine months after your disastrous run as foreign secretary demonstrate that.

But this is far from the experience of most people in the country you are now responsible for running.

Fixing our broken social care system is a national emergency.

This is my family story.

Two months ago, my family home - the bungalow I was born in the year after my parents bought it and where they lived all their married life - was sold to for my mother's care.

Their savings - from nearly 60 years of careful living on a teacher's salary and pension - had been drained by paying for my father's four years of care after a catastrophic stroke left him bedbound, doubly incontinent and unable to speak.

When it came to my mother's turn, there was nothing left and the house had to go.

Every penny was needed to pay the thousands of pounds a month care bill.

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My father, a proud man who lived by a strict moral code of right and wrong, black and white, had not only been stripped of his dignity and independence by his stroke, but, ultimately, of every penny of his assets by the government.

I never told him where the money was coming from to pay his bill. He would never have dreamed that he would be paying, given his condition. 
But who would imagine he would have to?

He would be horrified to know that their home had now been sold to pay for my mother's care.

And he would have been furious that not a penny of his life's work would go towards helping his grandchildren.

His brain bleed left him paralysed on one side of his body, doubly incontinent, unable to speak and effectively bed bound without the aid of a hoist and two members of staff for more than four years.

He could do nothing for himself other than use a spoon and a TV remote control. But his condition wasn't acute enough, according to NHS Continuing Care criteria, to qualify for funding.

The first six months of his nursing home care was funded by NHS Continuing Care, which I sussed out later had been most likely a ploy to speed his release from hospital and lull the family into the sense of security that care would be funded.

In the summer after his April arrival at the nursing home, he was reassessed and deemed no longer eligible, despite no change in his condition or capability, for funding.

He did receive just over £110 a week for funded nursing care, but the rest had to be paid for from his savings, until it reached the national threshold, allowing him to keep just over £14,000, and pay half his teacher's pension and all his state pension, with the rest paid by adult social care.

I appealed, of course, but to no avail. He had to pay and that was that.

After his death, circumstances dictated that my mother's care in her chosen home would have to be funded by the only asset left, her bungalow.

My parents had contemporaries who, apparently did the smart thing, anticipated this and signed their homes over to children or family members so could claim no assets to flog so the state would pick up their bills.

My father deemed this "dishonest" and believed that by playing by the book would be rewarded.

To add insult to injury, as self-funders, they got/are getting an increasingly raw deal, paying more than those who are state-funded.

It feels like a stealth tax, while saving the government a fortune.

This is all the more unfair when you consider that they lived their lives on an ordinary income, were super-careful about their spending, but had just enough to make them ineligible for state funding.

And it's all down to luck - or lack of it - about who needs care and who doesn't.

So, Mr Johnson, these are the facts about real people, who, incidentally, were Tory voters. What are you going to do about it?

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