Public 'still facing significant social care costs'

Patient and carer
Image caption Social care is currently means-tested

Individuals will still face significant social care costs even if politicians reach agreement on reform, experts say.

Cross-party talks starting later this month are expected to consider plans put forward in an independent review that costs should be capped at £35,000.

But some believe the final cap may have to be higher and have warned it will not cover everything anyway.

Social care chiefs say any future system in England will be a partnership between state and individual.

The revelation that health ministers and their Labour opponents had agreed to hold discussions about overhauling social care has been widely welcomed by charities and councils which are responsible for providing services.

'Lessen the costs'

But even with the prospect of political consensus in sight, the public will still be expected to shoulder a significant chunk of the costs.

Richard Humphries, of the King's Fund think-tank, said he believed the final cap might have to be higher than the £35,000 figure mentioned by the government-commissioned review published last summer by the economist Andrew Dilnot.

"My feeling is that in the current climate it may have to be a bit higher to be affordable [for government]."

He added that on top of that, those who ended up in residential care would still be liable for the non-care element - known as the "hotel costs" - which were likely to be between £7,000 and £9,000 a year.

He said because of the sums involved he thought it would be essential for the insurance industry to develop products to cover charges and for the state to allow a deferred payment scheme so that any costs incurred could be taken from an estate after death.

Peter Hay, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, agreed that the public must remember that they had a role to play.

"Social care is not free now and it won't be in the future. What we need is for people to start thinking about care costs. Three-quarters of people end up needing some social care support - so this is an issue that affects most of us.

"We need people to take responsibility for their well-being to lessen the costs for them and the state."

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