Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020

Care costs could be funded by taxpayer to stop ‘injustice’ of elderly selling homes

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In his online Tory conference speech, the Prime Minister appeared to suggest that the cost of the service could be spread across the tax-paying population in an bid to spare families the misery of having to sell homes to pay for long-term care costs. “We will fix the injustice of care home funding, bringing the magic of averages to the rescue of millions,” he said. His remark referred to a speech made by Winston Churchill in 1911 in favour of introducing a government-run insurance system to cover unemployment and sickness.

Mr Johnson said the challenge of reforming the social care system had been “shirked for decades” by a string of previous governments.

“Covid has shone a spotlight on the difficulties of that sector in all parts of the UK – and to build back better we must respond, care for the carers as they care for us,” he told the Tory conference.

On arriving in Downing Street last year, the Prime Minister said reforming social care funding would be one of his key priorities in office.

He has promised to try to build a cross-party consensus around proposals.

But a long-expected Whitehall “white paper” policy document on the issue has been hit by repeated delays.

Tory aides were last night unable to confirm when details of the plan will be published.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “As the Prime Minister said, we will end the injustice that some people have to sell their homes to finance the cost of their care.

“We are going to set out our plans in due course. We have also said we want to build a cross-party consensus for those plans.”

Tory peer Baroness Altmann, a former pensions minister and expert on later life policy, said: “We absolutely have to spread the cost of social care across the whole of the country.

“Under the present system, too much of the cost is falling on relatives of vulnerable people who need long-term care. Others with loved ones who are looked after by the NHS or who have no savings pay nothing.

“We need the state to be there for those who need it with a basic while still encouraging people to save and make provision for their old age.

“I hope we can get on with a proposal for reform so we end the burden so many families have to face.”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “It was encouraging to hear the Prime Minister recommit to action on social care in his speech, but his words were cryptic and so the Government’s exact intentions remain unclear.

“Over the last few months politicians on all sides have had a crash course in social care, and have been faced with the brutal reality of what happens when underfunded and understaffed care provision has to cope with a life threatening virus like COVID-19.

“Tens of thousands of older people have died in care homes whose lives might have been saved had we been better prepared and had our care system been stronger and more resilient. Instead it was like a lamb to the slaughter.

“We are confident that care will be better prepared for any second wave this winter and that many painful lessons have been learned from what happened in the spring, but the case for thoroughgoing refinancing and reform of care gets stronger by the day.

“The priority for now has to be to protect older people in receipt of care and the brave and committed people who deliver it, but looking further ahead it is imperative that the Government turns warm words into action and fixes social care for the longer term.

“It would make a huge difference to millions of older people and their families, as well as the care workforce, and is the least they all deserve after all the sadness and loss they’ve been through this year.”

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