Age UK Norwich chief issues plea over care funding reform

The head of a leading city charity for older people urged to the government to get it right over the funding of long-term care after a landmark report recommended a series of changes to the system.

The Dilnot Commission tasked with looking at social care funding has proposed a cap of �35,000 for the amount we should be expected to pay towards social care suggesting that companies may step in and offer insurance products to help save for it, or people could release some equity in our homes.

The threshold for which people are liable to meet the full costs of care would also be raised from �23,250 to �100,000. while there would a standardised national eligibility criteria for care to ensure greater consistency, while assessments carried out in one part of the country could be 'portable' so that anyone needing to move would not have to go through the process again.

Meanstesting should also be scrapped for people who need care as they enter adulthood, which should instead be free.

However, people in residential care would still be expected to contribute between �7,000 and �10,000 towards their general living costs such as food and accommodation.

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Committee chairman Andrew Dilnot, who unveiled the plans in London, described the proposals as a once in a generation opportunity to get to grips with the problem.

'The current system is confusing, unfair, and unsustainable,' he said. 'People can't protect themselves against the risk of very high care costs and risk losing all their assets, including their house.

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'This problem will only get worse if left as it is, with the most vulnerable in our society being the ones who suffer.

'Under our proposed system, everybody who gets free support from the state now will continue to do so and everybody else would be better off. Putting a limit on the maximum lifetime costs people may face will allow them to plan ahead for how they wish to meet these costs. By protecting a larger amount of people's assets, they need no longer fear losing everything.'

Phil Wells, chief executive of Age UK Norwich urged the government to make the proposals work

'Nobody likes the idea of having to sell their home to pay for their care in later life,' he said. 'Our own consultations with older people in Norwich show that most people, if they think about it, agree with some form of risk sharing so that the few who will need a high level of care do not lose everything to pay for it.

'The idea of a cap on what individuals have to pay, together with some form of 'care insurance' is similar to proposals under the last government, but chances of consensus were lost when the Tories launched their notorious 'death tax' attack on Gordon Brown.

'I hope Ed Milliband will be more mature about it,' he added. 'And I urge Chloe Smith and Simon Wright to do their bit to ensure the government sorts the issue during this parliament.'

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, said: 'I welcome this important report and the chance for reform of social care which it opens up. People need to consider realistically what they may face in older age and they need to get fair help from the state. I would like to see closer integration of health and social care, greater prevention and early intervention, and increased choice and quality.'

David Harwood, cabinet member for adult and community services at Norfolk County Council, said he and officers would be reading the report in detail.

'I do agree with his sentiments that there is a need to review the current funding system to ensure our older and more vulnerable people are well looked after in a way that is fair and that can be sustained by the country,' he said. 'I also think it's a shame that currently many people have to sell their homes and spend their children's inheritance to meet the cost of their care.

Prof Ruth Hancock, professor of the economics of health and welfare at the University of East Anglia, who was asked to produce some analysis of the models being proposed and the costs of long-term care

'The whole problem around this is the uncertainty,' she said. 'A quarter of people over 65 won't need any care at all, while a minority will need much less than �35,000. But there is also a small risk that you might end up paying �100,000 or �200,000. What they are hoping is that it would reduce the degree of uncertainty towards how much you are going to need to pay for your care and it could see the development of insurance products to help people save that �35,000.

'Obviously there will be a cost to the state and the report doesn't go into how that would be met,' she said.

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