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Author: Belfast Telegraph
Published on 04 July 2011 09:30 AM

A cap on the amount individuals and their families pay for personal care in old age would provide "peace of mind" in an era when people are living longer, the head of an independent commission has said.

Andrew Dilnot said he believes the Government would want to implement proposals for a cap of between £25,000 and £50,000 on the amount people pay for personal care in old age. He told the BBC that his commission believes that £35,000 is the "right number".

Mr Dilnot said: "At the moment people face the prospect that they could have care costs that would far exceed that which leads to them having to sell the house. That is what people have told us they think is unfair, not that they should have to pay something - most people recognise that making some contribution is reasonable. But they shouldn't be exposed to a world where they can't plan, where all they can do is hope that it doesn't happen to them.

"We think putting a cap in place will give peace of mind and take away fear from an area where we should be celebrating, we should be delighted that we are all hoping to live longer, not frightened by it."

Under the proposals set out in the Dilnot Commission report the cap would leave the state to pick up the bill for any spending beyond that level for personal care. Mr Dilnot said the commission is also proposing a cap on so-called "hotel costs" in residential homes so that care costs cannot be disguised as accommodation costs. "We are suggesting that at some level of between £7,000 and £10,000 a year there should be a cap on the amount of accommodation costs that people could be charged," he told the BBC.

He admitted that the Government would be picking up "quite a hefty bill" for people such as Alzheimer's sufferers who are in residential homes. He said the proposals would cost £1.7 billion a year at current prices, compared with a public spending bill of £700 billion, including £100 billion on the health service alone.

"This is a small increase in the overall level of public spending to make a difference to something that is a crucial part of the way that we run our society - a way of reflecting the value that we put on people and something that can give peace of mind in an area that at the moment creates a great deal of fear," he said.

He said the £1.7 billion cost would rise over the next few years with a growing elderly population. "These costs will rise probably by 50 or so per cent over the next few years," he added. He said if there were to be a specific increase in taxation to pay for the measure "we think it probably should be a tax that is paid at least in part by those over retirement age".

Mr Dilnot expects the measure to make it possible for insurers to offer cover for care bills, saving thousands of pensioners from having to sell their houses to pay for residential home fees. Experts estimate that a maximum liability of £50,000 could be insured for a one-off premium of around £17,000 on retirement.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, who will outline the Government's response to MPs later, said he expects to give a "very positive" reception to the commission's recommendations. Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband have both expressed their readiness to enter cross-party talks to seek consensus on the thorny issue.

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