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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Social care reform must not be 'swept under the carpet', campaigners warn

Written by Gavin Cordon

Reform of social care must not be "swept under the carpet" campaigners have warned, as ministers promised to consult on the way the system is funded.

Downing Street insisted Theresa May remained committed to facing up to the challenge of caring for a rapidly ageing population.

However the Conservatives were effectively forced back to the drawing board after there was no specific mention in the Queen's Speech of controversial changes set out in the party's General Election manifesto.

While it acknowledged that the number of people aged 75 and over was expected to increase by 70% between 2015 and 2035, the speech simply promised to "work with partners at all levels" and to "consult on options to encourage a wider debate".

Simon Bottery (pictured), of the charity Independent Age, said they were "enormously disappointed" that the speech included only a "passing mention" of social care.

"Social care was a critical issue during the election and now, despite promises of a 'consultation', it risks being swept under the carpet and ignored," he said.

"Social care is in crisis and, while the care system desperately needs more funding, we also need a comprehensive review of how we deliver social care in the future."

Jeremy Hughes of the Alzheimer's Society said that with hundreds of thousands of dementia sufferers "paying through the nose" for basic care, ministers needed to come forward with "workable solutions".

"The dementia tax debate and ensuing election result sent a thundering message to the Prime Minister that empty promises and platitudes won't suffice," he said.

"The public simply won't accept a drawn-out consultation that leads to no resolution."

The Tory manifesto proposal to scrap a planned £72,000 cap on care costs - dubbed the "dementia tax" by opposition parties - was seen as one of the key factors behind the party's disastrous showing at the ballot box, despite a dramatic mid-campaign U-turn by Mrs May.

Under the original Conservative plan, the cap would have been replaced with a "floor", with nobody with assets of less than £100,000 having to pay for their care.

However, for the first time in the case of people being treated in their own homes, the value of their property would be included in the valuation of their assets.

The Conservatives said no-one would be forced to sell their home during their lifetime to pay for their care, although the costs would be recoverable from their estate after they died.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said that the consultation would still consider both a "floor" and a "ceiling" for care costs.

"The Prime Minister has set out that with an ageing population, it's a huge challenge which we all have to face up to. There will be a very wide consultation," the spokesman said.

"One thing which it will look at is the concept of a floor and a ceiling."

However Caroline Abrahams of Age UK said there needed to be a rethink of the manifesto plans.

"The proposals set out in the Conservative Party manifesto were insufficiently thought through and involved a major shift of financial liability on to older people and their families," she said.

"It is critical that this consultation process results in real reform to the social care system which is so desperately needed."

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