Care costs: Charities hit out at 'death tax'

 

Charities and unions criticised the Government for failing to tackle social care funding and branded today's proposals “empty words”.

Local government leaders also warned ministers the reforms do not address the growing financial pressures councils face in meeting care costs.

The National Pensioners Convention said the deferred payments scheme amounted to a death tax.

General secretary Dot Gibson said: "Under these proposals people will still end up having to pay for care by selling their homes - the only difference will be that it will be done after they've died. Many local councils already offer such as scheme and often it's interest free rather than the interest added scheme the Government is proposing. Whichever way you look at it, it's a death tax."

She added: "Suggestions that people should pay up to £75,000 towards their care before the state steps in are absolutely outrageous.

"Why is social care one of the few areas that we don't fund through general taxation, like education, the armed services and the NHS? Instead we say to frail elderly people you are on your own; use your savings, sell your house and get on with it."

Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: "We are concerned that under the proposed timetable, elderly and disabled people, as well as carers, could face at least a further five years of uncertainty.

"The introduction of a cap on the maximum amount an individual would pay for their care will provide some peace of mind for our rapidly ageing population, but for such a system to work it has to be universal. We do not think that the Government's suggestion to consider voluntary opting in or out of such a scheme is workable or provides people with clarity.

"Council leaders are disappointed that the White Paper does not address the reality of the current and growing funding crisis in adult social care and the subsequent huge financial pressures councils face. Small pockets of additional funding, while needed, simply paper over the cracks. Serious and real reform must include an honest appraisal of what a modern social care system costs and how it is to be funded."

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "While the Government seems to have accepted the idea that there should be a limit on how much people will have to pay towards the cost of care in their old age, too many families will still be forced to sell their homes while ministers make up their minds as to how high this cap should be.

"Millions of families are already struggling to make ends meet and are desperately worried about how they will be able to fund the spiralling costs of social care. This delay announced today won't help them sleep any easier at night. They will be concerned that the Government is thinking about bringing in an even higher limit than the £35,000 recommended by Andrew Dilnot, which really would be a huge blow to Britain's hard-pressed families."

Imelda Redmond, policy director at Marie Curie Cancer Care, said: "We are encouraged to see that the Government is beginning to focus on the social care needs of terminally ill people, as well as their families and loved ones.

"Extending intermediate care to the terminally ill and supporting the principle of free social care for those at the end of life are steps in the right direction to ensuring that people spend their final months and weeks being supported, comfortable and pain-free.

"However, we are disappointed that the Government has failed to grasp the significance of the issue regarding the wider funding of social care for millions of families. Failure to definitively deal with the future funding of social care has clear implications for people who are in the last days and months of life. It risks leaving too many people without the care they need and leaves families unsupported at a very difficult time."

Richard Lloyd, executive director, Which?, said: "Successive governments have for too long ducked the crucial decisions on social care funding, while people continue to suffer unacceptable levels of care.

"The Health Secretary must now end the uncertainty and confusion people face about their future care provision and the costs they will face so that they can adequately prepare.

"Today's announcement of deferred payments does little to fill the gap left by the Government's indecision on the level of a funding cap.

"There are many unanswered questions and we want assurance from the Government that people will not be hit by high interest charges and fees. These loans must be fair and simple to understand and independent advice must also be available, not solely from councils."

Sue Brown, head of public policy at deafblind charity Sense, said: "We are hugely disappointed that the Government has postponed long term funding decisions for another 18 months, deepening Britain's social care crisis.

"Deafblind people tell Sense that without social care they are imprisoned in their own homes because they need support to do the basic things that most people take for granted - going to the shops, opening a letter, going to the doctors. It's simply unthinkable that human beings can continue to be abandoned in this way.

"Without a commitment to funding, today's announcements become empty words. This White Paper is clear that it is not intended to set out a funding settlement for care and support in future years. On the one hand, the improvements included in the draft Bill are welcome. On the other hand, the Government's procrastination about funding social care properly leaves deafblind people trapped, isolated and unable to live independently."

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope, said: "The social care crisis demanded decisive action. Today we got a holding statement.

"One third of people who rely on social care support are disabled adults. They rely on it for help with really basic day-to-day tasks such as washing, dressing and getting out of the house.

"But as the Minister said too often they don't know what care they will get.

"The national standard announced today is a vital first step. But crucially the Minister hasn't said how it will work.

"Until they confirm where the bar will be set and how it will be funded, disabled people will still be anxiously asking 'will I get support or not?'

"Reading between the lines, we are worried that the Government is planning to set the bar too high.

"This is about basic human dignity; disabled people getting up, getting washed and dressed, having a cooked meal and getting out of the house."

Unison national officer Helga Pile said: "This white paper does not go far enough to protect the most vulnerable in our society, and leaves too many unanswered questions about how the care funding gap will be filled.

"The fairest way forward would be to fund social care through general taxation and provide a 'national care service', free at the point of need. Doing so would address the issues of underfunding.

"Failing to set out exactly how social care will be funded in the future is bad enough, but deferring the decision until the 2013/14 spending review is cowardly and short-termist. We need decisive action from this government, and a commitment from them that they will not shirk the responsibility of providing good quality, universal social care.

"Re-packaging care costs and cuts in the wider spending review or speculating on whether we can rely on private insurance companies to mitigate the funding gap is in no way a sustainable long term solution. The current situation encourages a race to the bottom for cheaper care, poorer quality conditions for care users and places providers and the workforce under pressure to deliver a service under low pay and in constrained time slots."

David Orr, the chief executive of the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, said: "We're pleased the White Paper recognises that housing is crucial to the integration of health and social care, and welcome the investment to build more supported housing for older people and younger disabled adults.

"We need a social care system that helps people live independently, access more personalised care and avoid more intensive and expensive stays in hospital or care homes. It should ensure those who need support can live in homes that are adapted to their needs.

"But this is not just about social policy or how we care for loved ones who develop dementia. It is also critical to the long-term economic stability of our country. We need a health service that invests in services that keep people out of hospital, not one that simply treats them when they get there."

Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: "Today's announcements will progress some much-needed proposals for reform of the social care framework, but sadly leaves far too much unconfirmed at a time no serious commentator believes the current system is adequately resourced to support disabled people's right to play a full and equal part in society. Care is in crisis and must be fully resolved."

Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: "While we welcome the publication of the long-awaited white paper, we are deeply frustrated that more progress has not been made, and that the decision on how to pay for long-term care has been postponed yet again.

"The Secretary of State says this is a watershed moment. It is not. Extending current practice on deferred payments is entirely sensible, but it is also a sticking plaster.

"Andrew Dilnot's commission gave us all hope for a new fair settlement and achieved widespread support - it is hugely disappointing his recommendations are not being acted upon now.

"Successive governments have failed to act. Without a sense of urgency more of us face insecurity and uncertainty as we age. The failure to address social care properly will only mean more pressure on the NHS thereby destroying all hopes of a sustainable and functioning health system in the future."

Ros Altmann, director-general of Saga, said: "Will this system stop people from losing their life savings including their family homes? The answer is no - people will still lose everything and there is no proper fair partnership between the individual and the state.

"The suggested 'universal deferred payment' loans may merely delay people having to sell their homes but does not set a limit on how much people should spend on care. We also do not know what interest rate will be charged on these loans."

PA

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