The provision for long term care for the elderly is a subject that is constantly in the media and with the annual cost of a room in a nursing home estimated to be on average £35,984 (source: Care of Elderly People UK Market Survey 2010/11) how to pay for care can be a major concern for many people.
Under the current system, anyone with assets of more than £23,250 receives no State help at all and is expected to fund their own needs. In many cases this is only possible if the family home is sold or lifetime savings are used, meaning all those years of hard work building up a nest-egg to leave to children or grandchildren can be swallowed up in care home fees, whilst those with assets below the £23,250 cut off receive Government funding. It could be argued that the present arrangement is a disincentive to save and penalises those who have worked hard to build up their asset base.
The Government recognises the unfairness of the system and, with the increased pressure on public finances, this is pushing an already overburdened system to breaking point. Without further integration between health and social care services this picture could worsen. It is frail, older people who are likely to suffer until such time as the issue is resolved.
The impending “Commission on Funding of Care and Support” prepares to make its final recommendations in the next couple of weeks. This will seek to include – at first voluntary and, if that doesn’t work, compulsory – contributions from everyone who can afford to pay something, however small. But in terms of care provision, what balance will be struck between supporting personal choice with a fair local variation (which is very difficult to risk-price in advance) and a one-size-fits-all ‘best practice advice’ pooled approach?
Whichever method the Government decides to use, the clear message is that the State cannot afford to pick up the tab for care in our old age and that some form of contribution will be expected from the individual. The situation will not improve in coming years as there are already more pensioners than schoolchildren in Britain.
It is highly likely to mean that the debate on care funding will rumble on for years.
Early planning can ensure that you have a choice over the standard of care you receive – so it makes sense to seek professional advice in this regard. Just make sure your adviser holds the Chartered Insurance Institute’s CF8 qualification, as only those with it can advise on long term care issues.