LETTER : Care rules for the old favour spendthrifts

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article of 11 March fails to address a crucial issue - the perverse incentives resulting from the existing arrangements for paying for long-term care of the old.

If I have worked hard and been careful with my money throughout my working life, and if I have saved and invested in my own home, then when I become old and frail or struck down by Alzheimer's, the state will expect me to sell my house to pay for long-term residential care.

But if I have been idle and squandered my money, and if I have not planned for the future but lived for the present, then the state will happily pay in full for my long-term care.

You refer to the estimated pounds 200m a year that the proposed scheme may cost. What you ignore is that a pensioner living in their own home who has paid off their mortgage before retirement will not be a burden on the state beyond their basic pension. But the pensioner still renting their home will need the state to pay housing costs for perhaps 20 or 30 years of healthy retirement. This represents a far higher burden on the taxpayer than that resulting from Stephen Dorrell's proposals.

MARCUS YOUNG

Ely, Cambridgeshire

Sir: Thank you for your leading article. What a relief! My reaction to Mr Dorrell's plans had prompted the terrible thought, "If I am the only one who thinks that, am I already marching towards dementia?"

My house is my insurance against future need. My children have a clear choice. Either they can help to look after me if I become unable to do it for myself and inherit their reward, or I can pay someone else to do it and leave little behind. For a government supposed to believe in family values, encouraging them to opt out of family responsibilities and also to have expectations of something for nothing, seems a bit rich.

BETTY PERRY

Chelmsford, Essex

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