Obligatory care cover for old age predicted

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The Independent Online
MIDDLE-CLASS 30- and 40- year-olds could be forced to take out compulsory care insurance to look after themselves and their parents in old age, according to a report published today.

Researchers from two think- tanks warn there is a potential crisis emerging in who pays and who cares for Britain's and Europe's increasingly ageing population, with an estimated 40 per cent increase in dementia cases by 2030, taking the number to 3 million.

Germany has recently introduced compulsory long-term insurance to cope with the demands of caring for the growing number of over-eighties and, the report argues, as this group of very old people is the fastest growing section of the population in Europe, other countries may have to follow suit.

The report, by the Family Policy Studies Centre and the Centre for Policy on Ageing, will reinforce concern that the British government is changing its policies so that the burden of caring long- term for the elderly and mentally ill is passed from the National Health Service, which provides it free, to social services departments, which may charge, or directly to the patient or the family of the patient.

Last month, the Department of Health issued new guidelines saying the majority of older people needing continuing long-term care after hospital should be reclassified as needing social care, which is means-tested.

Patients with more than pounds 3,000 in savings or capital assets would have to contribute and those with more than pounds 8,000 would have to pay the full amount. The closure of mental institutions and policy of caring for more people in the community reinforces this shift of financial responsibility to patients and families.

A Crisis in Care? The Future of the Family and State Care for Older People in the European Union; Family Policy Studies Centre and Centre for Policy on Ageing; pounds 9.95.