A study carried out by Age UK has identified that cuts in Government funding for the elderly are likely to see almost 200,000 more pensioners being forced to pay all the costs of their care in the coming years.
The study estimates that the number of people in England who do not qualify for any state support will increase from 490,000 to 670,000 by around 2025 unless dramatic steps are taken. It has also shown that the Government support wealth threshold has been rising slower than inflation for a number of years.
The steep increase in numbers is due to both the ageing population and the fact that an increasing number of elderly people approaching retirement own their own homes, which means that they will be judged too well off to qualify for Government support through the current means tested system.
The Director General of Age UK, Michelle Mitchell, said: “Over the years support for care services has been eroded to the point where the system is in crisis. This means that more and more of the burden of paying for care has been pushed onto older people and their families without any wider discussion about the fairest way of funding these essential services. This is why we need leadership from the Government to frame an urgent debate on radical reform of the care system.”
The Dilnot Commission, published last year, tackles these issues with the suggestion that there should be a cap of £35,000 on the lifetime contribution to adult social care costs to protect people from extreme care costs. It also proposed raising the means-tested support threshold from the current figure of £23,500 to £100,000. This would mean that only people with assets worth more that £100,000 would have to contribute to their care costs.
A White Paper is to be published this summer setting out how care for the elderly is to be overhauled to cope with the looming crisis. This will take into consideration suggestions from the Dilnot Commission.
The shadow minister for older people, Liz Kendall, commented “This analysis strengthens the urgent case for reforming our broken care system. Thousands of people are already paying the price for a system that has already reached crisis point. It is not only that more people are paying more but that the charges they face for home care and residential care vary hugely across the country so people face a postcode lottery through no fault of their own.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman has stated that they are committing an extra £7.2billion to social care over the next four years to ensure that councils have enough to maintain the current levels of access and eligibility. She also said that they are working to reform social care and will publish their plans shortly.