Elderly care bill 'should be capped at £35,000'

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Media captionAndrew Dilnot explains how a cap on care costs would work

An official inquiry will recommend that the bill elderly people in England have to pay for care should be capped at £35,000, the BBC understands.

The proposal could stop thousands of people having to sell their house or lose all their savings, says the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson.

The details will come in the report of the Commission on Funding of Care and Support in England on Monday.

Commission chairman Andrew Dilnot said a cap "would take away the fear".

He told the BBC: "If a cap were put in place we could take away the fear that people would lose everything that they had built up and in particular people seem reasonably anxious that they might lose all the value of their house.

"They still have to pay something but much less than if they end up with high care needs as it is at the moment."

Lord Sutherland, who chaired a Royal Commission into long-term care for the elderly in the 1990s, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme a cap would provide a degree of certainty.

"People could begin to plan, and what's more you could get the insurance market involved. They weren't interested 12 years ago."

Our political editor understands Monday's report will say that the bill for caring for the elderly is soaring.

Cost of £2bn-£3bn

A quarter of people aged over 65 can expect a bill of more than £50,000. One in 10 pays more than £100,000.

The cap could cost the Treasury between £2bn and £3bn - the same as the cuts to public sector pensions.

Image caption Ministers are looking to revamp the social care system in England

Nick Robinson says ministers will welcome the report but question where the money would come from to fund it.

At the moment, the support provided by councils is means-tested so that anyone with assets of more than £23,250 has to pay for all the cost of their care.

It means thousands of people a year are forced to sell their homes when they go into a care home.

In 1999, Lord Sutherland's Royal Commission recommended the state should pick up all of the bill for personal care, as happens in Scotland, but the government ignored the report.

Lord Sutherland told Today the government was unlikely to follow that recommendation "in our current situation", but that Scottish governments had shown "it is expensive but it is affordable" to provide free care for the elderly.

"They have a mature understanding that this is not an add on extra, this has to do with the reality of the shape of the population for the future, whereas it is being treated in Westminster largely as an extra you might afford or not - you cannot avoid doing something," he said.

'Broken' system

Earlier Mr Dilnot said the system was "broken" after being left largely untouched for 70 years.

He said: "This is the only major risk people face where there is no sharing of risks.

"Our health care needs, the consequences of having a car crash, the consequences of having your house burn down - all of those are covered either by the state or private sector.

"Here the state doesn't cover you and the private sector won't cover you so people are exposed to a very large risk with nothing they can do about it."

"There is no doubt to make this system better we are going to have to pay more. It does need more resource, but at the moment the amount we spend on this is rather small," added Mr Dilnot.

Earlier this week care services minister Paul Burstow suggested the reaction to the recommendations could be "lukewarm" - the Treasury is thought to have some misgivings about more funding.

A spokeswoman for the Treasury said no decisions had been taken.

She added: "Once we have received the report, we will consider its findings and welcome continued constructive engagement from all stakeholders."

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