Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Time to cut down the long grass delaying a solution to long term care funding

The difficult issue of funding long term care is one which the coalition must address. The danger is that it will be kicked into the ‘long grass’ with another commission. The King’s Fund, Joseph Rowntree , David Wanlass, White Papers and a wide scale public consultation-Caring Choices (a coalition of 15 groups)- have all considered the issue. Politicians have put forward suggestions -and now is the time for decisions.

Living in Southport-which has one of the highest concentrations of older people in the country-I am increasingly aware of the distress and anger that this issue is generating –and it is going to get a lot worse as bulge in the population caused by the baby boomer generation getting to the age when they need care. When this is coupled with longer life expectancy we are on course for a doubling of the over 85 year olds by 2045.

Nobody thinks the present system works. It is unfair, appears arbitrary and is inconsistent in its application. People want to have some certainty so that they can plan sensibly. Sefton-in common with local authorities everywhere-is increasingly rationing the care available, so that someone who would have qualified for financial support a few years ago lands up bearing the full cost today.

Interestingly in the extensive consultation carried out by Caring Choices coalition-which included Age Concern, Alzheimer’s Association, RCN, LGA, Kings Fund and Rowntree-found a surprising consensus that the care could not be wholly funded by the state and that co-payment was the preferred option.

Clearly there are some tough decisions to be taken especially over whether the £3billion of Attendance Allowances should be used to help fund the cost of care. Then there is the question of equity release and whether the government should sponsor/regulate such a scheme. The Tories have suggested a one of payment to purchase a care bond of around £8k. I’m not sure how many people that would find that to be an attractive option or even if the £8k is enough to fund a scheme but the consultation found that there was no appetite for the government to start offering guarantees to private insurance providers. This may change if not for profit friendly societies ran schemes. And of course there is always taxation.

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