Welfare charities fear that both Gordon Brown and David Cameron will not be able to deliver on their parties’ pledges to supply care for the elderly.
In his party conference address, Mr Brown offered support to those with the greatest needs, noting: “Today more and more people see their parents and grandparents suffering from conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia. And for too many families, the challenge of coping with the heartbreak is made worse by the costs of getting support.
“And the best starting point for our National Care Service is to help the elderly get the amenities to do what they most want — to receive care and to stay in their homes as long as possible.”
But charity representatives have questioned where the £400 million annual outlay will come from. Jewish Care chief executive Simon Morris said that although such a scheme was long overdue, “it is not yet clear how these changes will be paid for. It is vital that we see an increased amount of money going into the care of older people and are concerned that this initiative could be funded from other areas of provision of care for older people.
“All too often we already find local authorities do not have the budget to assess anyone who does not meet their ‘critical needs’ criteria, let alone fund the care they need, leaving people in need isolated. And I am not sure I can see this changing in the short term.”
Leeds Jewish Welfare Board chief executive Rebecca Weinberg welcomed “the commitment to free care. However, this is an ambitious commitment that can only be supported if councils are properly funded. If, as has been indicated, further savings are to be made by keeping people out of residential care, there are huge questions about the quality of preventative services.”
At this week’s Conservative conference, a plan was proposed to pay for care home fees for life in return for a one-off payment on retirement of about £8,000.
Leon Smith, chief executive of south London care home Nightingale was unconvinced, claiming: “The sums don’t add up. The average stay in a care home is usually in excess of three years. There seems to be no mention of nursing care.
“For the Jewish community this has further implications. Although legislation regarding funding of older people refers to the right of residents to have culturally sensitive provision like kosher food, no allowance is made to cover these increased costs.”