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Social Care: The Unanswered Questions

Social Care - the Unanswered Questions

Social Care - the Unanswered Questions? Some issues are too important - not just because of the amounts of money involved but because they affect too many lives at too deep a level – for petty political point scoring. One of these is the choice we now face on who pays for social care and how it is paid for. Everyone agrees the current system is complex and unfair and that as our population ages, radical reform is necessary. Labour recognises that the system is in deep crisis now and promises a £3 billion increase in spending per year to plug the black holes in local authority social care budgets and to build a National Care Service that fully integrates the NHS and social care systems.

Posted by Christine Bayliss for Bexhill and Battle on Thursday, 25 May 2017

Some issues are too important - not just because of the amounts of money involved but because they affect too many lives at too deep a level – for petty political point scoring.

One of these is the choice we now face on who pays for social care and how it is paid for.

Everyone agrees the current system is complex and unfair and that as our population ages, radical reform is necessary.

Labour recognises that the system is in deep crisis now and promises a £3 billion increase in spending per year to plug the black holes in local authority social care budgets and to build a National Care Service that fully integrates the NHS and social care systems.

In addition we also promise to ensure that care services providers can pay all their staff a real living wage and to implement the Ethical Care Charter to directly improve service quality.

And this investment would give us the breathing space to end the social care lottery which means that some elderly people accumulate huge lifetime care costs and have to sell their homes to meet them.

But precisely because this problem is so massive and so difficult to fix we don’t pretend that we have one solution and we have committed to find one that has real cross party support and can last for decades and will not need to be chopped and changed after every election.

As above all what elderly people living with or fearing the onset of dementia and their families need is certainty.

The Conservatives do think they have a solution and it is raising the assets threshold after which the elderly have to pay their own costs to £100,000.

Which on the face of it would help some elderly people in residential care as the current asset threshold above which they have to pay all their own costs is £23,250.

But as if often the case with Tory proposals the devil is all in the detail - and the crucial detail here are in their own words ‘this will mean that the value of the family home will be taken into account’ and that this applies to both residential care and to care in the home.

This is a hugely important change because under current rules when assets are calculated for residential care needs the value of the family home is often not counted (if for instance an elderly relative like a partner is still living there), and it is usually not counted at all when someone is receiving social care at home.

And to give the exact example that the Conservative candidate for Bexhill and Battle himself used at a hustings last Sunday this would mean that if your home is worth £500,000 and your care costs are £500,000 you ‘only’ have to pay £400,000 and that will ‘only’ have to be paid after you die.

As the implications for anyone who does have a home (and other assets) worth over £100,000 – which is pretty much every elderly person who owns a house or flat in Southern England – sunk in even Conservative-supporting newspapers started to call this a ‘dementia tax’.

So in an unprecedented U-turn Teresa May suddenly announced that there will also be a lifetime cap on total costs that have to be paid, although she had categorically ruled that out beforehand and won’t tell us what that cap will be, as clearly no one has worked out the implications.

And talking of implications nobody seems to have considered what the impact of deferring all re-payments for social care services until after death will have on the budgets of the local authorities that have to pay the costs of residential and home care each week.

This just won’t do.

People in Bexhill and Battle and people in the rest of the country need to know what they are voting for on June 8th.

A couple where one partner needs expensive social care but the other doesn’t needs to know what happens to them and the house the surviving partner is still living in when the partner who owes the social care bill dies.

A homeowner who has worked hard all their life to leave something to their children needs a better idea than ‘whatever happens we will let you keep the last £100,000 of your estate’ of what they will actually be leaving behind.

Local authorities struggling to meet their existing social care costs need to know how they will cover the new funding gap the Tory proposals for both a raised asset threshold and payments deferred after death will create.

The Conservative proposals on social care leave too many such fundamental questions unanswered.

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