Age UK’s response to the Queens Speech
Published on 08 May 2013 12:30 PM
Read Age UK's response to the big changes on pensions and social care announced in today's Queen's Speech, which sets out the government's legislative plans over the next year.
Today's Queen's Speech contained 2 pieces of landmark legislation for older people: A Bill to simplify the legislative framework and funding of social care, and a Bill introducing a flat rate State Pension.
A cap on the cost of social care
- The Care and Support Bill will introduce a £72,0000 cap on the cost of social care for individuals. It is hoped that the maximum upper limit means that people can buy insurance to cover the cost of any future care needs.
- It will give carers the legal right to support from their local council.
- It will provide protection to people whose care provider goes out of business to avoid repetition of the problems following the collapse of the Southern Cross care home group.
- Under the Bill, older people and the disabled will be legally entitled to a personal care budget, which they can receive as a direct payment to spend as they choose. Those in need of care will also be able to transfer their support packages if they move home.
- The bill will also introduce an Ofsted-style rating system for hospitals and care homes and give new powers of intervention to the chief inspector of hospitals in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the Mid-Staffordshire scandal.
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General at Age UK, commented on the changes, saying: 'The legislation announced today in the Queen's Speech has the potential to transform our crumbling, unfair social care system for current and future generations of older people, but to have any chance in succeeding we need to see the legislation twinned with a commitment in the spending review for increased spending on social care.
'Since this Government came to power, in real terms £710 million has been cut from social care spending, mostly as a consequence of the slashing of local authorities budgets at a time when need is rising due to our ageing population.
'In the vast majority of councils now only those assessed as having substantial care needs are able to access the current system and unless the Government sets the proposed national eligibility criteria at the equivalent of moderate, hundreds of thousands of people who cannot carry out everyday tasks such as washing, getting dressed, preparing food and laundry will be left without help.
'If people purchase their own care in order to meet needs assessed as ‘moderate' this will not count towards the £72,000 cap introduced by the Government. People could be dissuaded from getting help at just the stage when social care support could make a real difference.
'Good care makes good sense. If older people get good quality care at home it helps them remain independent for much longer, helps keep them out of hospital and protects families from the pressures of caring.'
A new single tier State Pension
- From April 2016 a new single-tier state pension will replace the current two-tier system of a basic state pension and earnings-related top-up.
- The Pensions Bill will also bring forward the increase in the retirement age to 67 by eight years, so it will now come in to force between 2026 and 2028.
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General at Age UK, commented on the changes, saying: 'Age UK supports the overall aims of the single tier pension, but we are concerned the proposed amount is just one per cent higher than current Pension Credit level. The triple lock needs to be enshrined in legislation to ensure that future generations of pensioners are protected from the poverty that blighted so many previous generations.
'The single tier will help many women, but Age UK is particularly concerned about a small group of women who were relying on their husbands' NI record, but will lose out under new arrangements and face a worrying future because they do not have time to change their retirement plans. We are calling on the Government to protect this group, for example, allowing those within 15 years of State Pension Age to retain this right. The government also needs to be clear about the transitional protection for those who could end up with a lower overall income due to changes in means-tested benefits.
'And with 1.7 million pensioners currently living in poverty the government must also set out plans to help current pensioners.'