Many of us as we get older will need help from social care to help with things like washing, dressing and preparing meals. But paying for care can be hugely expensive and many people find themselves having to spend all of their savings for this support in later life. The Government is proposing introducing a lifetime cap on care costs in a bid to help those facing catastrophic care costs.
What’s being proposed?
Once an individual spends £72,000 on their care the Government will take over paying their costs. The idea is that this will protect people from using up all of their savings in order to fund their care. Alongside this, people will be able to keep more in savings before being eligible for financial support. Watch our film to find out more.
Whilst this sounds like a good idea in theory, there are several issues with the proposal that affect how the cap will work in practice for older people.
Firstly, you have to be assessed by your Local Authority as having high enough needs to be eligible for care (information from page 23.) This means the cap will only apply to people with higher support needs, and money people have already spent on their care won’t count towards the cap.
Then there is the fact that the cap only includes money spent on ‘care costs’. For people in residential care, this means paying additional fees for food, accommodation and other ‘living costs’, which fall outside of spending that counts towards the cap. So in reality, most people will have to spend far more than £72,000 before becoming eligible for help with care costs.
The cap only includes spending on care services at the rate a council would pay for that same service. But as many of you may know, councils are able to arrange deals from their care providers because they are buying in bulk, meaning most individuals paying for their own care will pay a higher rate than the council does for the equivalent care. And this extra spending, known as ‘top up payments’, doesn’t count towards the cap.
Finally the recommended £72,000 cap is more than twice as high as the Dilnot Commission’s original suggestion of £35,000. Setting the cap at such a high level means most older people will never reach it – the Department of Health have estimated this will benefit just 8% of older people needing care.
And crucially, the proposed cap doesn’t address the fact that the care system remains complicated and difficult to navigate. For those suddenly flung into the unfamiliar territory of arranging care, especially during a crisis, this will be an extra issue to understand.
Have your say
So, the proposed cap is proving a topic of hot debate for older people. It’s important the Government takes into account your views, and we’re encouraging individuals and local Age UKs to make the most of the opportunity to let the Government know what they think of the plans.
Make sure your voice is heard. Take part in our online action