Pensioners say social care white paper is “Too little, too late”

15th July 2012

Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, responds to the social care white paper

The government has been spectacularly slow in getting to grips with the issue of care funding and today we have been told we will have to wait until the end of next year before we get an answer. We’ve had around 20 reports in the last 14 years which have all showed how the current system is in crisis and needs urgent attention, but the government seems incapable of understanding what urgent means for the 1m older people who are currently struggling with an inadequate care system. Today’s white paper smacks of being is too little, too late.

Suggestions that people should pay up to £75,000 towards their care before the state steps in are absolutely outrageous. Why is social care one of the few areas that we don’t fund through general taxation, like education, the armed services and the NHS? Instead we say to frail elderly people you are on your own; use your savings, sell your house and get on with it. We urgently need a National Care Service paid for by everyone so that we share the cost of care and ensure everyone gets the support they need in later life. For just 75p a day, the average tax payer could help fund a much needed comprehensive, good quality care system that treats older people with dignity.

The white paper is short on ideas to solve the care crisis. There is no attempt to end the unfair postcode lottery which allows different councils to charge different amounts for an hour’s worth of care, no effort to widen access to care services for the 800,000 people who are currently excluded from the system but desperately need care, and no end to the means-test which penalises many people with small savings and a modest home. It’s a wasted opportunity that adds to the uncertainty for millions of older people and their families.

Under these proposals people will still end up having to pay for care by selling their homes – the only difference will be that it will be done after they’ve died. Many local councils already offer such as scheme and often it’s interest free rather than the interest added scheme the government is proposing. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a death tax. It’s also very doubtful that people will take out costly private care insurance because they have no idea whether or not they will actually need it. The vast majority of people will therefore keep their fingers crossed and hope it doesn’t happen to them.

The government is proposing to now remove hundreds of thousands of frail older people from having a right to care, by saying that only those with the most extreme needs will qualify for support. This will place an added strain on the army of unpaid carers who will now have to soldier on without any real support or help.

Many older people simply do not want to become mini-employers with the responsibility for sorting out annual leave, maternity pay or national insurance for their care workers. This puts vulnerable older people in an intolerable position and is open to widespread abuse.

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