Lifetime social care costs to be capped at £75,000
The Government is due to announce a “fully-funded” solution to elderly people’s social care costs, with a £75,000 cap on lifetime costs – much higher than the Dilnot recommendations.
There is also expected to be a rise in the threshold for means-tested support from £23,250 to £123,000.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said this will stop the “scandal” of people having to sell their homes to pay for their social care – 60% of people end up paying more than £100,000 in care costs.
The plans will be part-funded by freezing the inheritance tax threshold at £325,000 for individuals and £650,000 for couples for three years from 2015. Before the general election, Chancellor George Osborne had pledged to raise the threshold to £1m.
The Dilnot review recommended a cap of between £25,000 and £50,000 in 2010-11 prices and critics have suggested that £75,000 is too high.
Dilnot’s plan would have cost at least £2bn, but he said this morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The cap that is being proposed is £75,000, we think in 2017 prices. That’s the equivalent of £61,000 in our terms, so it is higher than we would have wanted – £11,000 higher than the top end of our range, and I regret that, but I recognise the public finances are in a pretty tricky state. It doesn't seem to me that it is so different from what we wanted as to radically transform the basis of the system.”
Hunt said: “The point of what we are doing is to protect people's inheritance. The worst thing that can happen is that at the most vulnerable moment in your life you lose the thing you have worked hard for – your own house. We are trying to be one of the first countries in the world where people do not end up having to sell their house.
“We have a scandal at the moment that every year 30,000 to 40,000 people are having to sell their houses to pay for their care costs. Around 10% of us end up paying more than £100,000 in care costs.
“If you've got dementia, which is going to affect a million people in the next few years, you have this double whammy. You are trying to cope with this incredibly difficult condition, the loss of your memory, the impact on your relationships with your family. And then you have the double whammy of having to sell your home. That is what we want to sort out.”
He added that setting the cap at £75,000 would allow people to plan in advance for their old age. “Just as people make provisions for their pensions in their 20s and 30s, so we also need to be a country that prepares for social care as well.
“By setting an upper limit to how much people have to pay, then it makes it possible for insurance companies to offer policies, for people to have options on their pensions, so that anything you have to pay under the cap is covered.”
Shadow minister for care and older people Liz Kendall said the plans would not be fair on people with “modest homes”.
“Andrew Dilnot recommended a cap on care costs of £35,000 and warned that anything above £50,000 won't provide adequate protection for people with low incomes and low wealth.
“And these proposals won't do anything for the hundreds of thousands of elderly and disabled people who are facing a desperate daily struggle to get the care and support they need right now.
“We need a far bigger and bolder response to meet the needs of our ageing population: a genuinely integrated NHS and social care system which helps older people stay healthy and living independently in their own homes for as long as possible.”
National Pensioners Convention general secretary Dot Gibson said people are “still going to lose their homes” to pay for care, and urged politicians to consider a ‘national care service’, paid for out of general taxation and free at the point of delivery, like the NHS.
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