I got a call this week from Avril who wanted to thank me for the pledge on social care in the Conservative manifesto. She said she wished people would stop complaining because her elderly mother had had to sell her home to pay for her care under the current system and the family had been left with a fraction of what they would get under the new proposals.
This is the truth facing families in Avril’s mother’s situation on a daily basis at the moment. And still the system cannot cope. Prices of care are spiralling; many people are not getting the support they need and the current funding arrangements are complex and unfair. And you have to factor in that there will be over two million more people over 75 years old in Britain by the end of the next decade alone.
So for all, like me, who have been lucky enough not to have had actual experience of the current system, here are the facts. All social care now is means-tested, with the amount you pay linked to your income or assets. But there is a difference in means testing depending on whether you receive care in your own home or in residential accommodation. If you receive care in your home then your income and assets excluding your house are included, but if you move into residential care then the amount you pay can be taken from your income and assets including your house, right down to the last £23,250.
Under our plans, whether you receive care at home or residential care, the means test is based on the same income and assets, including property, but the means-tested threshold will go up to £100,000. This means that you will be able to pass on four times the current limit: a minimum of £100,000 instead of £23,250. There will also be an absolute cap set on the amount people must pay and no one will have to sell their house in their lifetime to pay for care of any sort.
There have rightly been questions about the level of this cap and it is proposed that the final details will be worked out after the Election in a Green Paper. This will also set out key proposals to link up social care and the NHS as is being done successfully in some pilot areas and which has seen real improvements in reduced hospital stays and the provision of better care.
I am sad that political scaremongering has generated much fear and concern amongst just those people this policy is aiming to help. Theresa May’s plan is an honest acknowledgement of the scale of this looming problem and an attempt to provide the beginning of a solution without increasing taxes on younger generations. I have yet to see any credible alternative put forward by any other party.