Advisers split on paying for aid

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THE ROYAL Commission to advise how the increasing burden of care for the elderly should be financed is facing worrying divisions, according to sources.

Government officials think that there will be a "substantial minority report" or at least a "strong note of dissent" in the commission's report to the Government, which has already been postponed for publication by a month, to 27 January.

Most of the 12 commission members want to put forward the radical proposal that nursing and personal care costs for the old would be free, in the same way as hospital care. This means that when people enter care homes they would only have to pay for their accommodation, reducing the chances that they would be forced to sell the family home to finance their care.

But a minority on the commission believes that the cost would be far too high. They say those who would gain the most from the system would be the better off, because the poorest are already covered by the means- test system.

A spokesman for the commission said yesterday the differences of opinion were "not unworkable".

The commission, which met as recently as Friday, was set up in December last year by Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, to find a "fair and affordable" way of funding long-term care.

Under the current means-tested system, which is highly unpopular, people with savings of less than pounds 10,000 have their nursing-home fees paid by the state. Those with savings of up to pounds 16,000 have to pay for part of the fees while those with higher savings pay the full cost. This has led to many elderly people being forced to sell their homes.