Andrew Lansley (Shadow Secretary of State for Health) has announced a new home protection scheme that will bring to an end the current practice of elderly people potentially losing their family home and life savings in order to fund residential care.
A Conservative Government would introduce a new, voluntary scheme with a one-off joining fee (estimated at around £8,000, paid at age 65) in return for a guarantee that absolutely all fees for permanent residential care would be waived - for life.
However, this dramatic proposal has been met with mixed feelings. Indeed, social services leaders have warned that an exclusive emphasis on meeting the costs of residential care for older people risks creating a `perverse incentive’ which might amount to discouraging them from staying and continuing to live in their own homes.
This, ADASS (Association of Directors of Adult Social Services) says, `flies in the face’ of clear evidence that older people would always prefer to stay in their own homes, with their families, in their communities, for as long as possible. These proposals might lead to their being encouraged to enter residential care prematurely.
Association President Jenny Owen said, "we are delighted that both the Conservative and Labour Parties are now committed to raising these issues within their manifestos in the forthcoming election. We very much welcome the high profile this will give to reducing the unfair burdens of care which have arisen in a system which we have described as `unfit for purpose’. But political leaders from all our parties need to recognise that it will continue to be so unless the costs of caring for people in own homes, and in residential homes as well as in hospital, are all seen as a single, indivisible whole.
"Concentrating only on residential care costs on the one hand, or on the costs of caring for people in their own homes, as the Prime Minister did last week, risks seriously destabilising an already fragile health and social care system for older people. The authors of the Green Paper on adult social care funding, which all stakeholders in adult care have been studying carefully since before this summer, were especially aware of this danger," she warned.
In a speech to the Conservative Party Conference to be given today (October 5, 2009), Ms Owen argues that ruling out a tax-based system covering the costs of residential and home care, as the Green Paper has done, was premature. She said: "The current government rules it out because it places a burden on working age people. ADASS would not be so peremptory: exactly the same argument, for example, could be applied to the funding of the NHS.
"We welcome the Prime Minister’s move towards providing care free of charge to certain categories of need - although a lot more work needs to be done on the resource implications."