Theresa May must keep to her promise; there needs to be a lifetime limit on care costs.
One in ten people who pay for their own care face £100,000 or more to meet the costs of receiving personal care.
This isn’t an insight into crippling costs patients can face in the oft-maligned healthcare system in the United States.
It’s not even a warning about some dystopian future under a privatised NHS.
It’s a statement of fact, describing the position people with dementia, and many other long-term conditions face today: in England’s social care system.
It’s a real shock to many that, unlike the NHS, social care is not free at-the-point-of-use. Far from it – individuals with assets greater than £23,250 are not entitled to any state-funded social care. And remarkably, for residential care, that means-test threshold of £23,250 includes the value of someone’s own home.
Residential care is there to provide support to the frailest in our society. The typical profile of an individual entering a care home is female, aged 85. Care homes provide help to individuals who don’t necessarily see their needs as anything other than health care needs. They need help with the most fundamental day-to-day tasks: washing, dressing, eating, even toileting.
A household doesn’t have to be wealthy to be a ‘self-funder’ – due to the stringent means-test, if their home is valued at the median property value of around £225,000 the state deems them ten times wealthier than the level needed to qualify for any state-funded residential care.
Independent Age believes two things need to happen:
- The government needs to introduce a more generous means-test (or ‘floor’) to widen access to the state-funded system of care and support for households with modest assets. At the very least, the capital limit needs to be raised to £100,000, which the Conservatives set out in their now famous manifesto.
- The government should place a lifetime limit on care costs, which Theresa May pledged at the election.
In Will the cap fit? Independent Age and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries argue that the government should introduce a different level cap, not the £72,000 level legislated in the Care Act. The government should use its long-awaited Green Paper to reframe and reset the cap so it is inclusive of all care costs. This would remove the risk that the public misunderstand what costs are capped and it would represent a fair contract between the state and individuals facing ‘catastrophic’ costs.
On a ‘floor’ but also a ‘cap’, there can be no excuse for inaction.