Pensioners’ leaders tonight condemned the Government’s plans to limit care home bills for the elderly as “tinkering around the edges” of much-needed change.
The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt confirmed plans to cap the potential lifetime cost of nursing care at £75,000 with only pensioners with assets of more than £123,000 paying anything towards their care at all. But thousands more people will be hit with inheritance tax bills to pay for the policy because of a three-year extension of the freeze in the £325,000 threshold – £650,000 for couples – at a rate of 40 per cent.
Mr Hunt said the measures would end the “unfairness” of pensioners being forced to sell their homes to pay for care and would allow people to take out insurance to cover the £75,000 maximum outlay. However, Labour suggested that the measures did not go far enough and questioned why the Government had not accepted the recommendations put forward by the independent Commission chaired by the economist Andrew Dilnot to impose a £35,000 limit on care costs.
Mr Dilnot himself said he regretted that the cap had been set at £75,000 but insisted it would mean that pensioners no longer had to be “terrified” of the consequences of needing care. “We said it should be between £25,000 and £50,000 in 2010/11 prices. The cap that is being proposed is £75,000 [at] 2017 prices,” he said.
“That’s the equivalent of £61,000 in our terms, so it is higher than we would have wanted – £11,000 higher than the top end of our range and I regret that but I recognise that the public finances are in a pretty tricky state”. However, the National Pensioners Convention described the reforms as “about as credible as a Findus Lasagne”.
NPC general secretary Dot Gibson said: “The social care system needs urgent and radical reform, but these proposals simply tinker at the edges. Setting a lifetime cap on care costs of £75,000 will help just 10 per cent of those needing care, whilst the majority will be left to struggle on with a third rate service.”