'Care cap' issues worry welfare chiefs

Communal welfare leaders have voiced concerns over the government’s latest plan to cap care costs for the elderly.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Monday announced proposals for a £75,000 cap on care costs and to raise the means-testing threshold from £23,250 to £123,000.

However, the changes are not due to be implemented until 2017, two years after the next general election. The government’s move is a response to complaints that the elderly are being forced to sell their homes to pay for care.

Nightingale Hammerson chief executive Leon Smith complained of a lack of detail in the proposals. “It’s good that some action is being taken but we just don’t know what will be covered,” he said. “If they don’t cover ‘hotel costs [accommodation and food]’, then the £75,000 cap is not accurate. ‘Hotel costs’ are around £10,000 per year. Most people don’t have liquid assets so they’ll have to sell their house to raise the money.” The plan might even cost welfare charities more, he feared.

Mr Smith said the care cost for a Nightingale Hammerson resident ranged from £35,000 to £55,000 annually. “At the present time, a significant proportion of people are paying a full rate. However, the local authority is not going to be able to support that rate. They might pay £520 [weekly] and we’ll be worse off.”

Jewish Care chief executive Simon Morris said the plans were “highly complicated but a good first step. How it will be interpreted by the government and local authority is yet to be seen.”

All Jewish Care residents are means-tested and Mr Morris “totally welcomed” the raised threshold. But he pointed out: “Who knows what the next government will decide to do?

“It doesn’t change the need for us for plan for old age. The community has a higher proportion of older people than the national average and a growing number of us are expected to pay for our care.”

At Manchester’s main welfare charity, The Fed, chief executive Karen Phillips was also concerned by the lack of clarity. “It looks like it will cater for personal care, but not accommodation or food. A lot of people don’t understand what the money covers. Ultimately, there has to be a psychological shift and acceptance that we will be paying more for our own care.

“Some people are willing to purchase their own social care. Others believe that they’ve contributed their whole life and the state should support them. I suspect that people are going to have to rely on the voluntary sector rather than the state.”

A spokesman at Barnet Council, covering Britain’s largest Jewish population, said: “Health and social care funding for the elderly has been a growing concern for some time. We therefore welcome the government’s bill, which can provide residents with the peace of mind that they will receive the care they need without facing huge costs.”

Last updated: 11:45am, February 18 2013