Elderly People Forced To Spend £1.6bn on Nursing Home Fees and Home Help
By Martin Beckford, The Daily Telegraph
October 7, 2008
Under the controversial means-testing system, pensioners paid £892million towards residential care in 2007-8.
Older people also spent £258m on home help and £37m on equipment to help them cope with everyday tasks and adapting their houses to their needs, according to the new statistics.
The charges, levied by local authorities, accounted for a fifth of the total £8.9bn spending on services for pensioners.
Critics said the data, published by the NHS Information Centre for health and social care, prove that the current system is unfair and in need of urgent reform.
Under the means-testing regime, anyone with more than £22,500 in assets receives no state assistance for nursing home care and has to pay up to £700 a week for accommodation and meals.
This means many ill and vulnerable people who have worked all their lives are forced to drain their savings, sell their homes or give away their planned inheritances just to fund basic living costs.
Earlier this year Gordon Brown launched a public consultation on the future of social care, which will lead to a Green Paper this autumn, amid fears that increased life expectancy will double the cost of care to £24bn within 20 years.
Ministers said the new system would help elderly and disabled people remain independent, improve their choices and should stop them worrying they will have to sell their homes to pay for care.
But the options could include every adult paying an "ageing tax", on top of National Insurance, to help meet the cost of providing care to the increasing number of pensioners.
Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrats' shadow health secretary, said: "The current long-term funding system for personal care for the elderly in England is simply not workable.
"It is unfair, ineffective and unsustainable. People who use or work in the system find it irrational, confusing and unjust.
"The Government has been dithering over reform for too long. We need radical reform of the system now.
"The Liberal Democrats have proposed an extra £2bn to help fund a Care Guarantee which would entitle all older people to a personal care payment, based on need and not the ability to pay."
A spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents town halls across England and Wales, claimed funding constraints meant councils were forced to deny help to all but the most vulnerable residents, while many other pensioners were missing out on care because the system is so complicated.
He said: "The social care system is in desperate need of long term reform. The under-funded and inflexible system is beginning to creak at the seams.
"Town halls have found their hands tied because increased demand has placed a huge strain on council budgets. This has left councils with little option but to withdraw services for many who need help with activities such as washing, eating and getting the shopping in.
"The complex system for getting care and support is in desperate need of simplification to make sure that people don't miss out simply because they end up confused and bewildered by the process. The myriad of benefits, form-filling and means testing can seem like a bureaucratic merry go round and leave many feeling that they are fighting the system."
The NHS Information Centre said it had published provisional data in the new tables four months early because town halls were demanding information to help them plan budgets.
Its director of social care, Robert Lake, said: "We have responded to feedback and worked hard to deliver these statistics early because social care managers have told us that this is when they will be of most use in helping them in their decisions for developing services in the year ahead."
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