The government's new proposals raise more questions than they answer
CARLTON HOUSE in Hatch End, north London, is a small, friendly place. A private care home, it has 22 elderly residents and a well-stocked garden where they sit of an afternoon. Several say that they like Carlton House, and can think of no way to improve it. But they are unhappy that they have had to sell their own homes to meet the bills of this one.
Even Andy Burnham, the health secretary, has described care for the elderly in Britain as "a cruel lottery". State aid for personal care (medical care is free on the National Health Service) is means-tested: those with [pounds sterling]23,000 in assets must pay for their own. Some end up with bills of [pounds sterling]200,000 whereas others receive care free. About 45,000 people are forced to sell their homes each year to pay for social care. Two-fifths of the roughly 450,000 now in residential-care homes pay their way.
As in other countries, a rapidly ageing population in Britain is pushing the care system towards crisis. Another 1.7m older people in England will require looking after by 2026, the government reckons. This will strain care budgets, which are already heading for a [pounds sterling]6 billion annual gap in funding over the same period.
So the government's long-delayed consultation paper on July 14th was keenly awaited. Two radical options are ruled out: leaving people to pay for their own care and funding it entirely through general-tax revenues (devolved Scotland's version of the latter is already running out of cash). It outlines three approaches.
The first is a system of co-payments, in which the government would guarantee to everyone a payment equal to a quarter or a third of likely social-care costs, picking up more of the tab for poorer folk.%2
Monday, August 22, 2011