Anthony Hilton: Tough decision ducked on care for the elderly

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The Independent Online

The Queen's Speech on Wednesday was pretty dull stuff, but one bit which did make me cross was when the issue of long-term care for the elderly was once again kicked into the long grass.

Addressing an insurance industry conference last year, I heard Vince Cable say that one of the toughest decisions the Government had to face was how to provide and pay for the long-term care of Britain's growing number of old people. The economist Andrew Dilnot had just written a report on how the costs might be shared between the individual and the state, and the implication of Mr Cable's comments was that the Government would decide whether his suggestionswere workable.

It is a huge issue because one in four of us will need at least two years' care in the last phase of our lives – which effectively means one household in two. But the potential cost burden is widely misunderstood and underestimated, because Mr Dilnot proposed that the individual's share of care costs should be capped at £35,000.

This is the figure which everyone bandies about, but what people don't seem to grasp is that it is not the only cost. Residential care also comes with a "hotel" cost: the food and accommodation charge. This is often two or three times the actual cost of the care – the medicine and nursing – which is what Mr Dilnot thinks the state should help to pay for.

The hotel charge would fall entirely on the individual – hence typical care home fees for a two -year stay of at least £100,000 even if care is capped. This, for most people, can only be funded by selling their home.

Perhaps that is why government prefers not to talk about it.