Poorest older people must be priority for extra social care cash, warns major think-tank

Date Published: 08 May 2012 @ 00:00 AM
Article By: Rachel Baker, News Editor

The Centre for Social Justice is urging ministers to prioritise the poorest older people when they respond to the Dilnot report.

The CSJ warns elderly home owners should not be the first priority and that “urgent steps should be taken now to fix the already broken social care system for Britain’s neediest older people,” in a new report prior to the Government’s response to the Dilnot inquiry.

The major think-tank breaks with the political consensus by urging Ministers to prioritise the poorest over the competing claims of asset-rich old people who are forced to sell their homes before they qualify for state subsidy.

The Centre for Social Justice highlights the plight of the war-time generation, saying they are now reliant on a collapsing means-tested system and that the Government should, “deal with their needs first, before relaxing rules that require better-off pensioners to reduce their assets to below £23,250 before they are entitled to help from the state.”

Dilnot proposes raising this threshold to £100,000 and capping the amount any old person would be made to contribute to his or her social care.

The CSJ report, Transforming Social Care, declares: “The public system of care now offered to those who most need help is, to a great extent, broken.

“It is difficult to see why the cure proposed by Fairer Care Funding (the Dilnot report) will do anything to improve the lot of the poorest.

“The Government must get its priorities right. The greatest priority remains ameliorating a formal care system which at present treats very many very badly: the quality of care provided is of too low a standard and there are many who do not receive care because their needs are not deemed sufficiently severe.

“The Government must focus much-needed additional funding on this group first before, at a later date, potentially phasing in the Dilnot reforms. It is vital that in terms of social care reform, the Government runs before it can walk.”

Christian Guy, the managing director of the CSJ, added: “Our social care system is on life support and public money is in short supply. Years of political paralysis must now come to an end.

"Given that the current social care system is in crisis, attracting just less than 10 per cent of the £140 billion spent on the elderly, it should take precedence in a renewed effort to ease the plight of our oldest people, the people who grew up in the war.

“Understandably, there is a lot of concern about better-off pensioners being forced to sell their homes and use the proceeds to pay for their care until they drop below the means-tested threshold.

“But Ministers should make the most vulnerable people and the unacceptable conditions they face their first priority, then phase in the Dilnot recommendations so that help can be extended to all.

“If they do not then inexcusable standards will persist and their much vaunted NHS reforms are doomed to fail because hospitals will be swamped by expensive new demands from near destitute old people with no where else to go.”

The CSJ report is backed by Sarah Pickup, chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. She says: "This report from the Centre for Social Justice is welcome as a reminder that implementing the proposals of the Dilnot commission on their own will not provide a solution to the current crisis in adult social care.

"The CSJ is right to say that the Commission has provided a good answer to the question about how to provide people with more certainty about the costs of care and to reduce the risk of catastrophic costs, but also to point out that solving this problem will not address the wider issue of the need for a level of funding which is sufficient to fund quality support and services to meet needs."

The CSJ say that their report finds in many cases social care provided by councils to 1.2 million older people is “failing them miserably.” And that “Flying home care visits and underfunded care home places are symptomatic of a system which has not received the kind of investment demanded by the rapid ageing of the population.”

The report continues, “While there is little debate now about the diagnosis, it is difficult to see why the cure proposed by the Commission will do anything to improve the lot of those with no means.”

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