What the cap on care costs doesn't do

Elderly hand holding coins Ministers want to cap the costs of social care, but there are some caveats

Ministers are hailing their changes to social care as the solution to the long-standing problem of how to care for the elderly.

The introduction of a £75,000 cap - if introduced - will arguably be the first time the system has been overhauled since it was created along with the NHS after the Second World War.

Understandably, the plans have been widely welcomed with campaigners willing to give the government credit for doing this at a time when the financial situation makes it harder to do than it has been for a long-time.

But despite the breakthrough it is not quite the panacea it may seem on first glance.

Many people will still not get any help from the state

The government is effectively saying it wants to see a partnership between the state and individual.

It is promising to pick up the really high costs, while leaving the individual to cover the cost of the average care package.

But less than a fifth of people face costs in excess of £75,000, meaning the majority of people will still have to pay all of their bill.

About a quarter of people do not develop any care needs - or very little, while for another quarter the costs of care are below £20,000.

However, for a third of people the bill is between £20,000 and £75,000 - they will not get any help unless they fall below the means-testing threshold as the least well-off do not have to pay the full costs of care.

But of course many will say that is better than the current situation where people can face unlimited costs - and the hope is that the insurance industry will develop products that will cover the costs people face.

You won't be able to shop around for the best services

The cap only includes services that are available at the normal council cost.

If you want to move into a luxury care home or pay to get the best help you will have to cover that extra cost yourself.

Any spending above what the local council would have paid for would not count towards the cap, leaving the individual to top up their package.

It means relying on the current quality of services available if you want to stay within that £75,000 sum.

Unfortunately the system, according to the Local Government Association, is drastically under-funded, which is hampering the ability to meet the needs of the elderly.

The government spends less than £10bn a year on social care for the elderly - a tenth of what is spent on the NHS and a quarter of the defence budget.

The criteria for being entitled to social care help will be extremely high

Just because you develop a care need, it does not mean you will fall within the system.

Only those with needs classed as severe or substantial will be entitled to help - that basically means you need round-the-clock help.

Any spending before you reach that level of need will not count towards the £75,000 cap.

It will mean many will still have to struggle to get by on their own until their situation worsens.

That is no different to how it is now, although a decade ago many councils were able to offer help to those with low or moderate needs.

The social care system, in a nutshell, will only be there for the most frail.

Care homes will still be expensive places

A cap of £75,000 is a substantial sum of money, but on top of that people face paying so-called accommodation costs.

This is to cover the cost of things such as food, bills and renting the room.

Of course, these are the kind of costs elderly people face if they are in their own home - and that is one of the reasons why there is a state pension.

But with annual "accommodation" bills often hitting the £10,000 mark, a care home place will be a more expensive arrangement than the status quo for most.

Nick Triggle Article written by Nick Triggle Nick Triggle Health correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Sadly, in our modern society children seem to care more about their inheritance than they do their parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    44.FingerPuppet - "When my folks get too old / poorly to be independent, they'll live with me, where they'll be given the respect and care they deserve.............."

    EXACTLY - if everyone did that, as used to happen in this world (& still does in many places) then we wouldn't even be having this debate!

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    #44, what if you have health problems yourself and your parents have dementia and other health problems requiring 24 hour professional care over an unknown number of years. What about elderly people without children, should the office of public guardian come along and sell their homes to pay for their care? We don't treat criminals this badly, why not charge them the 90 pound a day prison costs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    As soon as the Tories privatise yet another aspect of British tradition of care we see profit and misery. This is the real point. The media are being way too kind to this government, could it be the only reason they got enough votes to form a coalition in the first place?

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    What I really object to is that State Funded residents pay significantly lower fees than those who pay for themselves in the same home. In effect those who have saved are being penalised three times - pay out of taxable income, the state keeps down interest rates on savings, the fees subsidise the other residents. Hey, ho, round the world cruises until I fall apart, maybe!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    When my folks get too old / poorly to be independent, they'll live with me, where they'll be given the respect and care they deserve. There'll be no chance of them being abused or neglected.

    That's what families are about; I wouldn't trust local government care homes as far as I could throw them.

    These are our parents; how could anyone trust minimum wage strangers to really care for them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    What a joke. You work all your life, save money and buy your own house just to give it away in care costs in old age. Yet someone who doesn't bother doing anything their whole life will pay nothing! Give free care to everyone up to XYZ per year and if they want the Silver Spoon service only then make them pay the extra. As usual it's those who can't/won't... get...

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    I think interviewers and analysts in the media are letting the government get away with murder on this. From the detail mentioned so far, it sounds like the average person needing long term care will rack up a bill of about 150K before they get some contribution from this 'cap'. It doesn't introduce any certainty for people at all. Ministers are claiming things that are blatantly untrue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Its a step in the right direction. It still leaves us with the situation where those who don't work all their lives or spend everything they have get things for free, but those who work hard and save still have to pay up to £75 000.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    As someone who works in the health and social care system I have to say the main point is being missed. If you want good standards of care you have to start paying decent wages! It can be a hard job emotionally and physically, often with abuse from service users or their families. Pay is often just above minimum wage which is pathetic considering the responsability and what we have to clean up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    There I was thinking I would have to sell the house if my wife and/or myself had to go into care. Now I'm told I will only have to fork out £75,000 each. That's the biscuit tin emptied then. Who are they trying to kid?

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    I believe it is quite telling that there are many on here advocate syphoning off the budget for humanitarian missions abroad directly into the bank accounts of the lazy old in their million £+, 6 bedroom houses who are "in need" of government help.

    What a farce! The savings should go back to those who need it; the men and women of this country who do an honest days work!

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    If the quality of care is guaranteed to be horrendous, then I would certainly welcome the Liverpool pathway and ensure my demise is sooner rather than later.
    My experience of nurses in the UK is that they lack compassion in the main. There are nurses who care, but they are in the minority. RCN wants nurses to compete with doctors rather than concentrate on providing nursing care.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    I have to say this is an unclear and badly written article it could be much more simply laid out with the key differences between the current system and that proposed highlighted. Poor journalism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Given that most of this will not be implemented until about 2020 or so, it seems more of a delaying tactic aimed at making Osbourne and the neo-Cons look beneficent now rather than appear the butchers of society that they truly are today and will forever be tomorrow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Perhaps if we looked at the level of Foreign Aid which is miss used and spent the money on our own in the first place we would not have the problems of funding we see at the moment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Another 'smoke and mirrors' job by the government. Yet again, those who try to make their own way in our society are to be clobbered. The ordinary family who work hard, pay their taxes and try to save a bit are always the ones who end up bailing out the feckless. The rich are OK (tax rebates and tax avoidance thanks to Cameron), the scroungers are
    OK but rest of us foot the bills. Why bother?

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    If the children of elderly parents do not want their inheritance to go to Care home profits or to the state then they need to look at doing the task themselves. They cannot expect the state to pay and then claim their inheritance.

    The system is unsustainable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Comment number 2
    The cap is supposed to apply to "essential / basic care services". Ever tried to keep someone healthy without food and a good roof over their heads?
    Can I choose to live in a field instead of a home, when the time comes? If my house has been sold to fund my care, don't see what other option there is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    And what about the people who would love to be earning enough to be able to save ANY amount, rather than the tens of thousands needed for basic care in old age. I have been working for the vast majority of the last 30 years, but due to some set backs with health and career changes, and the collapse of endowment policies that would have paid off my mortgage this year, I am living from hand to mouth


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