“Fully funded” social care plan – still needed

Louise Campbell

Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt would like to have us believe that he’s a hero of the elderly. He has announced plans that will supposedly tackle the scandal of people having to sell their houses to pay for elderly care. Shockingly 40,000 people are forced to do this every year under the current system.

The “fully funded” plan includes capping the cost of social care to individuals at £75,000 over their lifetime and increasing from £23,250 to £123,000 the assets you have to own before having to contribute.

Drop in the ocean

Any measures which relieve the burden of the cost of elderly care on the poorest people should be welcomed.

But £75,000 is still a devastatingly high cap. The National Pensioners Convention has pointed out that the proposed cap would “help only 10% of those needing care, while the majority will be left to struggle on with a third-rate service.” The cap does not include board and lodging if needed.

And of course the gesture is pretty meaningless when social care budgets have been cut by an average of 10% across the country and privatisation has run the service into the ground, as was shown by the collapse of Southern Cross care homes in 2011.

One reason behind Hunt’s sudden apparent burst of sympathy for the elderly was shown when he said: “it makes it possible for insurance companies to offer policies, for people to have options on their pensions, so that anything you have to pay under the cap is covered”. Yet another effort to find new ways for the Tories’ big business friends to make a profit. But so far they have not shown much interest in stepping in here.

Why should we have to pay for this care from our own pockets at all? £120 billion is avoided or evaded in tax by big business every year and they have £850 billion sitting idle in their banks. The money exists in society to have a genuinely fully publicly funded and democratically run, high quality system of social care for all those who need it.