Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Elderly 'need more from government'

Andrew Lansley said he wants Labour to stay involved in a process deciding how to fund long-term care

Campaigners say the Government has done "not nearly enough" to resolve the elderly care crisis after it backed a cap on care costs but failed to commit to funding it.

A progress report to be published by ministers next week will give support in principle to an independent review's proposal to limit in England the amount any individual must contribute.

But it will say that a decision on whether it can be afforded will have to await the next spending review in 2013/14 - making reform unlikely until after the next election.

The move sparked a political row, with Labour accusing ministers of abandoning cross-party talks and "kicking the issue into the long grass".

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, however, insisted the report reflected progress made in the talks and insisted he remained hopeful of producing legislation by 2015.

A £35,000 cap was recommended last year by the review chaired by economist Andrew Dilnot - with pensioners expected to take out insurance to cover that sum and the state covering the balance. He also suggested that people with assets of up to £100,000, rather than £23,000, should qualify for taxpayer help.

The Government's response was originally due last autumn but has been delayed over concerns about the affordability of the shake-up - expected to cost £1.7 billion a year - amid severe cost-cutting efforts to control the UK's record deficit.

The progress report will be published next week alongside legislative proposals to improve other parts of the care system for the elderly, including extra rights for carers and families. A source said no decision could be made on a cap now because there was "not any money available at the moment"

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, accused the Government of an "empty promise". He said: "People with dementia and their carers are being forced to pay a dementia tax of tens of thousands of pounds a year for essential care and support. To them and thousands of other vulnerable people, an agreement in principle to a cap on care costs is meaningless. This empty promise also ignores the separate problem of underfunding of care as a whole. Some people are struggling with no care and no assets - for them, a cap on costs is useless."

He went on: "Further bickering between politicians will be a catastrophic failure of political leadership as families continue to struggle to care for people with severe disabilities. It is time for all parties to commit to a real public discussion about how we pay for the costs of care and make the costs for families fair. We cannot afford to delay any longer."

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