Social care is vital to many people who are disabled, elderly or frail. But unlike health care, social care is not free. Care can be very costly. Meeting the costs of a place in a nursing or care home can even mean people have to sell their houses. This comes as a shock to many people and the cost of social care is now a big issue.
The Labour Government planned to create a National Care Service and make paying for care fairer by having a charge that would only be paid after the person needing care had died. We also brought in a change to offer free personal care at home to those with the greatest needs. However, the Conservative-led Government scrapped our plans for free care at home and appointed the economist Andrew Dilnot to head up a Commission to make recommendations on funding social care.
The Dilnot Commission recommended setting a cap of £35,000 as the maximum amount that people would have to pay towards their own care. They said that setting the cap at this level would offer the best protection for people on lower or middle incomes. The Commission also said that people needing care would have to pay £7,000 to £10,000 a year for accommodation costs.
The Government has finally announced its proposals on funding social care but these are disappointing as they ignore the advice of their own experts. The Government is proposing to cap care costs at the much higher level of £75,000 plus making people pay accommodation costs of £12,000 per year.
What this means for us in Salford is that people who need care will continue to face the shock of large care bills when they are elderly, frail or ill. Setting the cap on costs at such a high level means that people may have to pay themselves for 4 to 5 years before they get any state help. Fewer people will be helped. The new system will not start until April 2017 and I will continue to campaign for a fairer deal for people needing care.