Imagine the scenario…. You’ve been comfortably retired for 20 years, and then one day you receive a letter out of the blue asking you to pay £100,000. The reason? To help provide funds for the care you might need towards the end of your life.
You’d be up in arms, wouldn’t you? Totally unfair and unjust and, anyway, you don’t have a spare £100,000. Yet this isn’t too far removed from the situation right now – with the government’s social care plans in tatters and precious little light at the end of the tunnel contained in the Queen’s Speech.
£100,000 is typically the sum you might be expected to pay if, through no fault of your own, due say to the onset of dementia, you are obliged to move into a care home for the last two years of your life. Ok sure, thankfully for most of us it doesn’t come to this, but for a sizeable proportion it does, and many others end up having to pay substantial sums of money to pay for care they receive in their own home.
At the moment, if you do need to move into a care home, and you own your own home, you have to pay in full for your care – regardless of how little income you receive. That typically means anything from £35,000 per year to well over £50,000, depending on location and the type of care provided. In many cases, this will mean having to sell your home to pay for the privilege.
Under proposed Conservative Party plans laid out in its manifesto, this financial burden (i.e. having the value of your house taken into account when assessing payment of care fees) was to have been extended, for the first time ever, to those people receiving and paying for care in their own home. A proviso was added to say that people wouldn’t have to sell their own home while still alive – presumably, though not made clear, meaning that any care costs incurred would be passed on to family beneficiaries and taken from your estate.
On the plus side, the plans included raising the amount of personal assets below which people have to pay for care from the current level of £23,250 to £100,000. However, there was no reference in the manifesto to a ceiling beyond which any individual would have to contribute to their own care during their lifetime. A figure of £72,000 had originally been recommended by Sir Andrew Dilnot in the Commission on Funding of Care and Support, published back in 2011, and at the time favourably received by both government and opposition.
So where do we stand now? The short answer is ‘none the wiser’.
In fact, arguably we’ve gone backwards. When the Conservative government was elected in 2015, the care reforms recommended by Sir Anthony Dilnot were deferred (yet again) until the 2020 parliament – a neat way of passing the buck to the next government, therefore in all probability, someone else’s problem.
However, following Theresa May’s abrupt U-turn on social care policy proposals early on in the election campaign, unless the new minority government changes direction yet again, we’re talking about 2022 at the earliest for any degree of clarity. Or, maybe not at all if it continues to be put into the ‘too difficult’ box.
Yet, with over 1 million people currently receiving care, either at home or in a care home, and rising each year as the population ages, it’s not a problem that’s going to go away any time soon. In other words, in the absence of any reliable guidance from this and future governments, it’s fair to say that, for now at least, it’s important for people to make whatever provisions they can.
So, if you have a spare £100,000 floating around, sorry to be a killjoy, but you might be better advised keeping it in the piggy bank, rather than spending it on that world cruise you’d promised yourself. You would need a crystal ball to foresee whether you actually will need care, but, if you’re one of the lucky ones who never need to pay for care, you’ll be able to pass on the money to your family, along with your home too.
On a more serious note though, how can families possibly be expected to plan sensibly and prudently for their future care when they can’t trust the government to stick by its stated policies? It’s high time government grasped this issue properly and put in place a sensible and transparent policy. It may not be comfortable reading, but the public have a right to know where they stand.
When people come to Care Home Finder for advice to seek out a home that will best suit their needs, one of the questions they usually as is: ‘How much does it cost to be in a care home?’ This much we can tell them. But what we cannot do is provide any certainty about whether there will be a ceiling applied to the total amount they will have to pay, and to what level their assets will at some point in the future have to fall to before their care costs will be fully funded. Even the government don’t know this.