|'Wealthy' baby boomers should lose bus passes to pay for care, report suggests|
|Written by The Telegraph|
|Tuesday, 29 May 2012|
Middle class pensioners should pay extra taxes or lose benefits such as winter fuel allowances and bus passes to help pay for the cost of care in old age, a leading health think-tank has suggested.
The Nuffield Trust called for any extra money needed to fund a new system of social care to come from better off older people rather than younger generations.
It argues that people in their late 50s and 60s – members of the so-called baby boomer generation – already have the largest share of wealth in Britain and should be asked to contribute more.
Last year an official government commission chaired by the Oxford economist Andrew Dilnot called for a major reform of how care for the elderly is funded to cope with Britain’s ageing population.
Mr Dilnot called for the state and the individual to share the cost of old age care but that it should be capped to prevent anyone having to pay more than around £35,000 during their lifetime.
Meanwhile the threshold would be raised so that anyone with assets worth less than £100,000 would have their care provided.
Mr Dilnot estimates that the system would cost an extra £1.7 billion a year, a figure which would rise in future decades.
In the report Anita Charlesworth, The trust’s Chief Economist, a former Treasury director, and research fellow Ruth Thorlby set out a string of options for where the extra money could come from.
They argue that the taxpayer already spends £140 billion a year on older people mostly through the NHS and pensions and suggest diverting some of this into social care.
They single out an annual £1.5 billion underspend in the NHS, some of which they say could be used but say this on its own is unlikely to be enough.
Instead they suggest taking away the winter fuel allowance, travel concessions and free television licences from wealthier pensioners could free up as much as £1.4 billion a year.
Alternatively they suggest levying National Insurance on retired people who still work or some other form of tax targeted at well-off older people.
And despite the recent furore over the so-called “granny tax”, they argue that older people have been shielded from some of the biggest recent tax and welfare changes of recent years.
The authors conclude: “If revenue-raising were to focus on older people, there is a case for any additional contribution to the cost of protecting individuals from the risk of very high care costs to be targeted at the better-off elderly, as this is the group that would receive the greatest benefit from the Dilnot Commission proposals, as a cap on lifetime costs has the effect of protecting individuals’ accumulated assets.”
Mrs Charlesworth, insisted: “This isn’t about trying to take from older people.
“It is about the start of a conversation with older people about whether or not this is the mix of services and support that they want.
“There needs to be a conversation … about whether or not it is right that better off older people are getting quite a lot of welfare payments when some very poor older people are not getting any social care despite having high needs.”
Michelle Mitchell, director of Age UK said there had to be an “honest debate” about how to pay for old-age care.
“Age UK believes courage and conviction is required to address the reform and funding of social care, and is working with older people, their families, local authorities and Government to reach resolution of one of the defining social policies of the 21st century,” she said.
Sarah Pickup, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said: “The trouble with these things is that they affect people who could not be called rich.
“These are very difficult things – it is quite hard to take something away from the many in order to fund something for the few.”