Benefits trade-off 'could see fairer care system'
Published on 03 January 2013 01:00 PM
Most older people should have their winter fuel allowance cut to help fund elderly care reform, according to a former care minster.
Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow (left) said that targeting allowance cuts for all but the poorest would help subsidise a fairer state support system for later life care.
Mr Burstow said the move would help meet the cost of implementing the findings of the Dilnot Commission, which suggested capping the amount people have to pay for care during their lifetime.
Mr Burstow suggested, in a study by the independent Centre Forum think-tank, setting the cap at £60,000, higher than the £35,000 proposed by the Dilnot Commission.
This, he claimed, would save the taxpayer up to £1.5 billion a year.
Age UK's response
Commenting on the findings and the proposed cap, Charity Director-General Michelle Mitchell said:
'Implementing the Dilnot recommendations and introducing a lifetime cap on the amount any individual has to pay for their care and support would lift one of the great fears of becoming older.
'Too many people at the moment are faced with spiralling care costs and the unanswered dread of what happens when their money runs out.
'Introducing a cap would, Age UK believes, provide a fair and sustainable partnership between individual and state. It's difficult for us to comment on how the state's contribution should be funded until we have concrete proposals from the Government as to the level of the cap and means-test threshold.
We appreciate that the country is facing difficult financial times but we must be careful that the wider implications of any potential source of funding are fully considered.'
Funding the costs
Older people in England currently have to contribute fully to their own care costs if they have savings of over £23,250.
The Centre Forum report said these costs could be met by ending the universal entitlement to winter fuel payments and granting them, instead, just to those getting pension credit.
Mr Burstow claimed there were 100,000 older people with incomes over £100,000 claiming universal winter fuel allowance - and questioned whether this was right.
The report said the Government needed to be clear in its message that a reformed capped funding system was the best way of dealing with the 'broken social care system'. It said the crisis had lasted for more than a decade.
'Most importantly,' it concluded, 'the Treasury should pay heed to the views of thousands who risk losing their entire life's work through having to pay for unexpected care costs.'
Mr Burstow added: 'This trade-off can ensure that the frail, those who have dementia and those that are disabled, can have the peace of mind of knowing they don't face catastrophic care costs.'
Copyright Press Association 2013