Politicians urged to seize chance to change social care

Elderly person Ministers are looking to publish plans for social care reform in the spring

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Politicians from all parties have been urged to work together to find a way to overhaul the "failing" social care system in England.

Cross-party talks about the care given to the elderly and disabled failed in 2010 but will start again this month.

In an open letter, charities, faith-based groups and senior figures in the NHS and local government say the opportunity must not be missed.

Plans to reform social care will be put forward in the spring, ministers said.

But before that politicians are seeking to achieve cross-party consensus on the best way forward.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, Lib Dem health minister Paul Burstow and shadow health secretary Andy Burnham are expected to hold the first in a series of meetings within the next few weeks.

In the letter sent to the prime minister and published in the Daily Telegraph, 72 signatories, including leading figures from charities such as Carers UK and Age UK, as well as peers, academics and members of the British Medical Association and NHS Confederation, have suggested they should not squander the opportunity.

How does social care work?

  • To get state-funded social care individuals are assessed on needs and means.
  • Each council sets its own threshold for how incapacitated a person has to be to be eligible for help. Most have been increasing this bar in recent years.
  • If someone does qualify for help, the amount of savings they have is taken into account.
  • Those with savings of under £13,000 get free care.
  • Between £13,000 and £23,250 individuals have to contribute to the costs. Above the higher amount they have to pay for all of it themselves.
  • A government-commissioned review published in the summer suggested changes to this system.
  • The review, carried out by economist Andrew Dilnot, recommended a new partnership between the state and individual.
  • People needing care should be responsible for the first £35,000 of costs with the state picking up the tab for the rest, he said.
  • The cross-party talks that are getting under way this month will use these recommendations as the basis for trying to reach agreement on the funding situation.

The letter said: "We should celebrate the fact that we are all living longer lives, particularly disabled people and those with long-term conditions.

"But the unavoidable challenge we face is how to support the increasing number of people who need care.

"It is currently a challenge which we are failing to meet - resulting in terrible examples of abuse and neglect in parts of the care system.

"This comes at huge cost to the dignity and independence of older and disabled people, but also to our society, family life and the economy."

'At risk'

The letter went on to say people were being left "lonely, isolated and at risk" because of the problems with the current system.

It cited research produced by Age UK which suggested that of the 2m people with care needs, 800,000 were not getting any support because councils had started restricting access to services.

In a separate interview with the BBC, Councillor David Rogers of the Local Government Association said councils, which are in control of running the means-tested system, are united in their view of the need for change.

He said: "There is no doubt about the urgency and need for reform. Without exception, across local government all parties are in agreement. National politicians must try to come up with something."

Chair of the Care and Support Alliance Simon Gillespie: ''The current system is broken''

Attempts to reform the system collapsed before the last election after cross-party talks failed.

Labour accused the Tories of dirty tricks after they launched a campaign suggesting Mr Burnham, who was then health secretary, wanted to introduce a death tax to pay for changes to the system.

Once again, the way any new system is paid for is expected to be the most controversial and difficult element of the discussions.

Last summer a government-commissioned review by the economist Andrew Dilnot recommended a partnership between the state and individual with people responsible for the first £35,000 of their social care costs and the government picking up the bill after that.

But questions still remain over how affordable this is for both parties.

The government refused to comment on the upcoming talks, but Mr Burstow said ministers saw reform of social care as an "urgent priority".

Mr Burnham added reforming social care was the "biggest public policy challenge the country faces".

"This is an issue that transcends party politics and we look forward to playing our part in any discussions."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    There needs to be a clear and consistent (i.e. no postcode lottery) definition of the boundary between medical treatment (NHS free at the point of use) and care.

    Not easy but I don't see how the other issues such as how much an individual should be expected to pay, means testing, mortgaging your property etc. until a consensus is reached on this definition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    The "demographic time bomb" has been in flight for many years. Now that's it's landing one has to ask why the preparations by the state appear to have been all-but non-existent?

    Other questions: Why £700 per week for ONE person's care? How is that money divvied up? What care costs were the national insurance deductions of yesteryear envisaging by now? Who got it so wrong - and what we can learn?

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    I suggest this report is shown to all the 50% tax payer whingers, those receiving huge bonuses and those living in tax havens.
    Stop messing around with these people and get the priorities sorted out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.


    Family structures too variable

    Need INDEPENDENT equal incomes - child, worker, sick, old

    Shop prices WILL gear to that equal income

    Forget mythical Rich Spendthrifts: WE have WRONGLY 'gone along with' unjust damaging 'rewards', whereby SOME could 'save' to command help in old age, others just could NOT

    Given equal security for all, happy to work as able, until we drop

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    221.obligatory_expatriate "I am astounded by what approaches sheer nastiness and callousness in this discussion"

    Not a HYS regular then I take it? There are numerous, far nastier examples on yesterday's obesity thread, and on any about council workers, disabled folk, immigrants, or any of a dozen or more groups labelled 'enemies within' by the Con-Dems. Divide & rule - works a treat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    217. You have limited public sector experience. Teachers have effective tenure, failed ones move school to school. Councils never fire anyone. The fire service/police =closed shop. The "banking sector" (yawn) couldn't be held accountable because no one person was. In the private sector if you fail you get fired, in the public sector you have a review, then you sign off with "stress" for 8 weeks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    The Dilnot commission recommends elderly pay £35k-£50k of their care fees at max.
    CareHome residents would still need to pay for their accom & food + any costs above the Local Auth max rate. For my mum this would mean she must find £350 pw instead of £750 - meaning she can stay settled where she is indefinitely - instead of facing a move when savings run out in 7 yrs. Its not a free ride.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    212 ErrorWays

    A very sensible tax as most of the problems over the last 40 years in the Western world have been caused by the gross overvaluation of property. Such a non-linear tax would stabilise the market, and lead to a housing boom, as happened in the 1930s. And, I am an old fashioned capitalist - money is there to be flogged until its back is raw! Not providing commission for City Loons!

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    I've read many comments on HYS over the last few years from both sides of politics.Many blame scroungers, immigrants and benefit cheats for the problems.I don't see the same passion to blame all parties and politicians for the enormous waste of central govt. There is massive waste each year from MOD contracts that run over budget to MP allowances, inefficient tax collection and too much excess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    There may be many people who can deliver the care that is needed, but the current administrators have no idea how to administer such a system. For instance in West Cumbria a person from a town can be assessed by different social care departments dependant upon which hospital the person attended. Surely the social care should be administered on the basis of where a person lives?

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    Funny we can find unlimited resources for medical, maternity, English as a Foreign Language teaching etc for foreigners and their kids, but can't afford to look after our own.
    Stop wasting money on foreigners and their offspring. Send them home, get them off our books.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    Why do we waste so much money on wind farms, overseas aid and the EU. Let's start looking after our own people especially the old, the sick and the vunerable. If you believe charity should begin at home please consider signing

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    I was caring for my father for the past 2 years following his diagnosis for dementia. We were denied access to any services through social services, even though we could pay for them. We now cannot cope with his condition without any support and he is in a home at the taxpayers expense. Some common sense is needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    You were all cared for, fed, clothed & nursed by someone, usually but not always a parent, two if you were lucky. They made sacrifices for you. Pay it back,

    No. I never agreed to that bargain before I was born. I was never consulted. I have no contractual obligation.
    Note, I haven't said I won't, but if I do it will be out of love not obligation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    It is true that we should be encouraging people to save more just in case they need the money when they are older for basic care and suchlike. However, that being said, I am astounded by what approaches sheer nastiness and callousness in what some in this discussion are showing: it really is a case of rabid selfishness and denigration of people who did not save, and yet are not grasping spongers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    Care for the elderly should either be free to all, or there should be no free provision at all.

    If you try to compromise, then you will doom us to a broken second rate system that rewards those scrounge and fails those who really need it, exactly like the current benefit system, and not far short of the NHS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    I don't get Andrew Dilnot's recommendation that people should be responsible for the first £35,000 of their social care costs and the government pick up the bill after that. From where are people supposed to get £35K? If a person is retired or disabled, living in rented accommodation, with little or no savings, they are unlikely to have the money. Is the man being misquoted?

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    How many people have vanity/cosmetic surgery on the NHS? What are the true costs and WHY should it be free if it does nothing to sustain life or improve health? Who will end up paying for the faulty breast implants? Why should G.P's be getting a 25% pay rise this year - as reported in the press very quietly last week? All questions that need answers NOW.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    #198 From my experience there is vastly more accountability in the public sector than in the private sector. When things go wrong in the public sector, scapegoate are regularly found. But when the banking sector exploded, who was accountable?

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    My father-in-law is probably going to have to sell his house to pay for care (he has Alzheimer's disease). He has a pension, (a few hundred a week) but it doesn't cover the costs of specialist care.
    It seems to me that it would be 'fair' to expect him to contribute 95% of his pension to his care costs (as they cover all his living expenses) rather than a £35,000 capped sum.


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