Howard promises to protect savings of elderly people in care

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Indy Politics

The elderly would be spared selling their homes or spending life savings to pay for long-term care under Conservative plans announced yesterday.

The elderly would be spared selling their homes or spending life savings to pay for long-term care under Conservative plans announced yesterday.

Michael Howard, the party leader, said that more than 40,000 people a year suffered the indignity of losing everything in their final years because of the expense of residential care homes. He saidthe Tories would set up a joint scheme between families, the Government and insurance companies to prevent that happening.

Party strategists believe the issue strikes a chord with elderly middle-class voters, who believe they are entitled to free care after a lifetime of paying taxes, and children threatened with losing their inheritances.

Under the Tory proposals, denounced last night by Labour as a "confidence trick", people who take out an insurance plan to cover the cost of three years' care would be given a guarantee that the arrangement will continue after the period ends.

Mr Howard said the proposed scheme would be fairer, more transparent and provide a vital safety net to people, regardless of their wealth. "Free means-tested long-term care would still be available ... So no one would be worse off.

"The current system is unfair, " he said. "It encourages people to run down their assets. It penalises people who have saved ... For many people, the last few years of their lives can be spent in residential care. Without proper planning, that can end up meaning that someone's entire life savings and property are used to pay for that care." He accused Labour of not producing any proposals to address a huge area of concern.

The party believes the plan would cost about £240m a year, but would remove the incentive for people to dispose of their assets to qualify for free care.

Mr Howard also said his party was still committed to linking the state pension to earnings and said it would create a Lifetime Savings Account under which the Government would match any savings put in by individuals for their old age.

Stephen Ladyman, a Health minister, ridiculed the proposal to cover the cost of residential care as a "failed idea" that had been rejected by insurance companies. "It's a confidence trick that will provide nothing for the seven out of 10 people who already get help with their long-term care needs. The only way he could make his proposal attractive would be to offer an incentive to the insurance indus- try," he said.

¿ Patients should be entitled to home visits from their doctor and to Saturday morning surgeries, John Reid, the Secretary of State for Health, told MPs yesterday. The comments follow concerns about a new contract allowing GPs to opt out of providing out-of-hours care.

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