Did the Chancellor deliver for older people?
Published on 20 March 2013 04:00 PM
Michelle Mitchell, Age UK's Charity Director-General, sets out Age UK's response to the Budget below:
1: We're pleased the social care cap is coming in a year earlier, but disappointed there's no action to reduce the growing numbers of people who receive no formal help
Whilst we welcome the earlier implementation of the care costs cap and the higher upper means test threshold from April 2016, this will do nothing to help the 800,000 older people who need help with everyday tasks but receive no formal state support . Since this Government came to power, in real terms £700 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.
The future of social care is one of the most important issues facing the country. All too often the NHS and families are left to pick up the pieces when older people fail in their struggle to cope alone, which makes no moral or financial sense.
The Government must urgently address the spiralling crisis in social care by ensuring that every older person gets the help that they need when they need it.
The Chancellor may have confused in his speech by referring to raising "the threshold of the means test on residential care from just over £23,000 to £118,000". He was in fact referring to the upper means test threshold and older people will have to make contributions based on a sliding scale towards the cost of their social care if they have assets between the two amounts.
2: We're disappointed at the Government's decision not to invest in energy efficiency to help end fuel poverty.
Age UK is disappointed that the Government has chosen not to invest to improve the energy efficiency of Britain's housing stock, which would have helped provide a sustainable solution for the nearly six million older people in the UK living in fuel poverty. While the Government's Green Deal and ECO programmes are a start, they are simply insufficient to help the tens of thousands of older people who become seriously ill or even die every year in the UK because of the cold.
3: We're disappointed that the Government has not invested in older workers to keep them earning and saving.
The Government has focused on helping employers and has failed to provide any additional support for long-term unemployed older jobseekers. The endorsement of the Richard Review means that many older workers will no longer be able to become Apprentices, further restricting access to the high-quality training necessary to extend working lives and doing little for those struggling to find work.
4: We're disappointed that the Government has ignored the Work and Pensions select committee which called for the removal of restrictions on NEST.
Lifting the restrictions on limits and transfers into NEST would allow more modest savers to get the best returns on their savings because they would able to save in one account rather than having to accumulate several small pension pots. The benefits of such a change are well documented. We await the Government's action.
5: We welcome the plans to consult on regulation of payment systems
Many payment systems currently in operation do not work well for older people. Yet accessible payments systems are essential for everyone to maintain their independence. We call on the Government to take urgent action to ensure everyone has access to a payment system that works for them.