Politicians urged to seize chance to change social care

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

Related Stories

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."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    443 Fred1955
    A few hundred MPs, a few hundred thousand elderly. Some how we need a sense of scale before we start knocking down MPs. The NHS is not the place to look after the elderly. Controversial idea, but how about the children looking after their parents rather than foist them on the state. I know some do but there are loads of others who don't. But all they want is their house as a legacy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    We've invested all our post war wealth in a living arangement that has no future, and that includes care homes that enable the rest of us to sit in front of the tv every evening.

    This bizarre system only works if there's money to pay for it, but there isn't, so it won't.

    I suspect doctors will be gently encouraged to reduce the longevity of the poor, no questions asked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    439.Retired at Fifty

    So your 30 years of payment are 6 short of mine. I'll count that and what I pay in future against my £35000. If I did that then I would be owed money back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    Care will become more expensive as it becomes more privatized. Competition/free markets do not work the same way as they would in, for example, the sale of a car. The 'need products' always create a group mentality from a commercial point to up the price not reduce it. Privatize with price ceilings that stop extortion but still have enough business incentive to operate. Costs will then tumble.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    In many societies the younger families look after their elders at home, so when the former become older, their offsprings would look after them. Family insurance - priceless. When people do not look after elders, nobody would look after them later too. We have to ensure that the care system works, it cannot be allowed to fail. If it does, who would look after you when you are old and need help?

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    Think about it: i did
    Borrowing out of control., the tories are sorting that, the economy is crumbling but debt being sorted.
    NHS starting to collapse.- has been for the last 30 years
    Food security questions.- well as long as the population doesnt rise by another 10 million in the next 20 years we should be ok
    libraries - dont need them anymore, just get broadband!

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    The idea of a ceiling of £35000 on an individuals total care costs is a good one and should be introduced ASAP. This would remove the need to sell homes as such sums could always be raised by mortgaging the home and the balance paid after death

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    I despair at most of the comments, the bulk of them have missed the most important part of care for the elderly and the disabled - their families... instead, these days the State is being expected to fork out for their Care.

    The NHS never had care provision for the elderly or disabled, only medical needs and the SOCIETY we live in needs to be looking after their own with HELP from the state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    Many of these politicians who make these decisions that matter here, do not really care as their families are normally well off and well cared for. If they had elders on borderline situations like so many of us, then only perhaps they would understand the real situation. They are too busy sponging off the system for their own greed to bother abour sorting out the care system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    Think about it:

    Borrowing out of control.
    NHS starting to collapse.
    Food security questions.
    Not even enough money to keep libraries open!

    Does anyone really believe that care homes aren't going to close?

    Make sure all your family lives locally as far as possible, and be prepared to work as an extended family for your own welfare and security.

    Things are starting to become dangerous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    438. I am still paying £5,500 net p.a. in tax in my eleventh year of retirement and consider it a privilege to contribute to my neighbour's care costs thanking my good fortune that I do not at the moment need it.
    My children were born in hospital, one died in hospital and they all three went to fee-paying schools leaving my tax to the less fortunate. Salford council estate born socialist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    Money, money, money, Must be funny, In the rich man's world, Money, money, money, Always sunny, In the rich man's world,.
    But I will probably die of old age, lying in my own urine and faeces in a run down care home or hospital because I have little money, its a rich mans world. I will look on the brightside, i might get hit by a bus tomorrow

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    If we can afford to pay MP's goldplated pensions and expenses like second homes, we should pay for a good level of social care for everyone free at the point of need without charge, and not penalise those who have saved a few pound for their retirement. The government is saving save for retirement then penalising those who do

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    The problem with the care system is that it is run by people who only care about cash. Thats why we have people paying £20 an hour to be cared for by someone on minimum wage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    @426. Nebiroth

    Signing over a property to your kids is Deprivation of Capital but proving it is tricky and often impossible. I know because I worked in social care funding for many years. Those doing this are often solicitors, doctors, other professionals who know the law and obfuscate, deceive, hector and bulldoze the council decision makers. I saw it everyday and this won't change sadly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    436. CryFreedomMachine
    >>>..lower paid are taxed into poverty, then forced to apply for refund via tax credits & other benefits

    A Whitehall tour:

    "And in this room is the HMRC management, who take your taxes."

    "Next room is the DWP, who decide how much of your taxes to give you back."

    "In the next room are people who administer the people in the first two rooms".

    "in the next room .."

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    @438 I paid tax and NI for 33 years. In that time I have made no benefit claims and had no time in hospital.

    I'm more than happy to contribute to my social care costs in my old age.

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    I have paid tax and NI for 39 years. In that time I have made no benefit claims and had no time in hospital. Now I am expected to pay again out of my savings if I need any care in my old age. I would have been better off just scrounging off the state or spening every penny I earned then it would all have to be paid for. as usual, those who work hard are penalised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    Dear Politicians.
    Please get this one right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    What doent help is a taxation system that creates poverty.

    It is abhorent & negligent that lower paid are taxed into poverty, then forced to apply for refund via tax credits & other benefits, which incur massive & wasteful costs of employing many people to administer these refunds, including high paid managment

    A better more moral & efficient taxation system will free up significant money


Page 1 of 23


More Health stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.