A leading pensioner group has attacked proposals from the Conservative Party for a State-backed insurance scheme to fund the costs of people who require long-term care in old age.
The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) accused the Conservatives of coming up with "unrealistic" proposals for addressing the growing numbers of people who need expensive care in old age, often for a lengthy period.
Under the Tories' proposals unveiled by shadow chancellor George Osborne, people coming up to the age of 65 would be invited to make a one-off payment of £8,000, in return for which the State would pledge to meet their care home fees for life, should the need arise later in retirement.
However, the NPC said the propoals would not put a stop to the "scandal" of older people having to sell their homes to pay for residential care. Some 45,000 elderly people a year currently find themselves forced to sell up because of mean-tested care benefits and fees.
Dot Gibson, general secretary of the NPC, pointed out that private sector insurance schemes that meet the cost of long-term care already existed but that take-up was relatively low. She also complained that the typical cost of long-term care for someone needing it in retirement was £52,000, twice as much as the Conservative proposals suggested.
"Care in the UK is in crisis: for years it has been the Cinderella service of the welfare state – underfunded and overlooked, but this week both main parties have made proposals that are simplistic and unrealistic," Ms Gibson said.
"Their figures just simply don't add up. Suggestions that people should pay lump sums or take out private health insurance just won't tackle the inequalities in the system or prevent pensioners from having to sell their homes."
The Conservatives have also been attacked by Labour over their proposals, which follow a commitment from Gordon Brown at last week's party conference to do more to help the elderly. Ministers say that if the Conservatives' estimates of the cost of care prove inaccurate, the State would be left to pick up the bill, adding to the problems facing the public finances.
The Association of British Insurers said it was pleased that the issue was being addressed, but warned there was more work to be done. "The details will need to be examined carefully," it said.