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Social care cost awareness urged

More needs to be done to make people understand that social care in later life is not free, the former care minister has said.

Paul Burstow said there is a "very big need" to raise awareness about how people fund their care.

He said that some people believe the new £72,000 cap on care costs is actually a form of tax on the elderly because they do not understand that people have to pay for their own social care.

The care sector and the Department of Health must collaborate to raise awareness, he said.

The Care Bill, which will introduce a cap on social care costs at £72,000 from 2016, was designed to implement key recommendations from the 2011 Dilnot report and end the situation where thousands of elderly people are forced to sell their homes to pay for care in their final years.

Mr Burstow said people often feel "angry" when they find out care services are not provided for free, adding: "Some of the reporting of these changes have portrayed it as 'this nasty Government is going to impose a £72,000 tax on you for your care' when of course that's not what's happening. It's giving people the impression that something they thought was free is now going to cost them £72,000."

Speaking at the Institute for Government in central London, the Liberal Democrat MP for Sutton, added: "The care sector has a very important role to play to get awareness levels higher. And that has to be a collaboration between the Department of Health and the care sector.

"Getting those things across in a way that makes it clearer is very important."

Michelle Mitchell, the former charity director general of Age UK, added: " People think social care is free.

"They think they'll have it at the point of need like the NHS and get very, very angry when they realise that's not the case.

"When you say to people social care - they think you mean children in care homes. People don't realise we're talking about social care and what it means."

Earlier this month consumer campaigners called for elderly people and families to be given better information about what care costs they might have to pay.

Which? is urging the Government to make sure elderly people and their families get better information and advice about the care they are entitled to and how much they will need to pay.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We want to make sure everyone understands how they can plan and prepare for their care costs and we are looking at the best way to raise public awareness by working with local authorities, charities and the care and support sector.

"Local authorities will also have a duty to offer people information and advice on their support needs as part of the Care Bill.

"People have always had to pay for social care, but in the current system many are forced to exhaust their life savings or sell their homes to meet the costs, which isn't fair.

"Our reforms mean no one will face unlimited care costs and people should not be forced to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for their care."

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