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Thursday, 18 May 2017

Tory plans for social care 'missed opportunity' and could make crisis worse, Age UK

Written by Sally Wardle and Catherine Wylie

Conservative plans for social care have been branded a "missed opportunity" to solve the existing crisis facing older people, with a charity boss saying a solution seems as far away as ever.

The party's manifesto includes plans to fund increased spending on social care by withdrawing the winter fuel payment from wealthier pensioners, and offers protection from the cost of social care for people with assets of £100,000 or less, a dramatic increase from the current £23,250 level in England.

Critics say many families will still be left with huge debts as a result of social care, with homes left in inheritances having to be sold to pay them off.

No one will have to sell their home to pay for care costs in their lifetime, while a person's assets would not be allowed to dip below £100,000 as a result of paying for care, according to the proposal.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said the situation could get worse instead of better. She said there is a worry that some older people will be so "frightened" about the cost and "possibility of having to sell their home" that they might be put off seeking the care they need.

She said it is a "good thing" that the threshold has been raised to £100,000, but added that it will be "more than outweighed by the bad impacts".

Ms Abrahams told the Press Association: "Sadly, we don't think these measures will solve the crisis in social care. In fact, in some ways they could make it worse.

"That's especially because of the bringing-in of housing to the domiciliary care means test. Because that is going to result in many more people who are homeowners and who need care having to fund it themselves.

"Part of our worry is that in that situation, some older people will either struggle to do that, especially if they are on their own without any family help, and also that they could lose out quite a lot as a result.

"It's very hard to see how we could actually end up with a really functioning national solution to the crisis in social care on the basis of what people are talking about today."

Ms Abrahams said it is "tremendously important" that the 1.2 million older people who have an unmet need for social care get the help they need, adding: "I don't think there's anything that we see today that convinces us that that's going to change.

"And in fact, for the reasons that we've explained, some things could get worse. And I think that's just a crying shame and a really big missed opportunity."

The package also came under attack from the author of a review of social care, Sir Andrew Dilnot, who said he was "very disappointed" that a planned £72,000 cap on care costs was being scrapped - a move he said would leave elderly people "helpless" to control costs.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive at Alzheimer's Society, said: "We've been crying out for a solution that ends the catastrophic costs of dementia social care. For people spending over half a million pounds on dementia care, nothing parties have yet proposed will help."

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