Yesterday the smiley – ‘catch me if you can’ – Jeremy Hunt (Health Minister) presented the government’s proposals following the Dilnot Report in the House of Commons. I watched him on TV, and then some of the debate that followed. After high minded principles but no policy, caring for the elderly has at last reached a high level in political priorities. Effectively, Hunt had a positive message for those already old, and advice for those in their middle years.
As I understand it, from 2017 there will be a new system for those living in their own homes but in need of care. They will have to meet the cost but with a cap of £75,000 (not £35,000 as Dilnot suggested), after which their local authority will pay future costs. Residential care will be means-tested, has the same cap, but will not include the ‘hotel’ costs of board and lodging which I would have thought was the main expense. People with assets worth more than £123,000 (including the value of their home) will have to pay the full cost.
Those in their middle years are encouraged to think about how they will manage when they may no longer be able to look after themselves by taking out an insurance , the only problem here being that apparently the only company offering pre-funded insurance stopped doing so three years ago!
The Health Minister said that his reforms would end a social scandal, herald an historic change, and were a watershed moment for our country, but the think-tank, Demos has analysed the proposals and claims that an extra 120,000 elderly people a year will receive no relief on their social care and the £75k cap, will only help 16% of the over-65 population, a difference of 117,096 pensioners every year based on 2011 census figures. Claudia Wood, deputy director of Demos calls the proposed legislation unambitious and miserly ‘and will do little to solve one of the most vital social problems facing our generation’.
Andy Burnham, Shadow Health Minister, said in the Commons that the plan was at best only a partial solution. The formidable Polly Toynbee in today’s ‘Guardian’, arguing that whilst there are many other social issues that the government should be concentrating on, also criticises the plans. ‘Care’, she concludes, may become a word spoken only in irony. With no useful solution, the government should have left this snake’s nest alone.’
As usual she is right, but in my opinion only partly so. Perhaps I am affected by the number of people I know who, at the end of their lives, worry themselves sick about what will happen to them – the cost is important and losing the home they have loved, but becoming an anonymous person with no personal care and compassion is the real fear.
And perhaps as well it’s a bit my own fear which makes this issue important to me. So I shall try and keep track of it.