A cap on care costs would not work, says Independent Age

April 25, 2019

A cap on care costs would not stop people from losing their homes and savings, according to new research commissioned by Independent Age.

The research shows that 51% of homeowners in England over the age of 50 fear that they will lose their savings and homes whilst paying for care in the future. The survey results suggest that 58% of English adults and 56% of homeowners aged 50 and over worry about this, but less than a quarter (22%) are saving for their future care needs.

The polling by YouGov showed that women homeowners aged 50 and over were more concerned about losing their home than men (62% versus 50%). Overall, people in the Midlands were the most concerned (61%). Currently, more than 143,000 older people – more than a third of the 421,000 currently in residential care – are likely to face costs of £100,000 or more to pay for their care. Such costs are classed as ‘catastrophic’, says Independent Age.

In recent years, Government has proposed introducing a cap on care costs to prevent people having to pay as much for their care. However, separate research by Grant Thornton UK LLP, commissioned by Independent Age, has revealed that a cap would fail the majority of older people in care homes. The older people's charity is saying that caps don’t work because:

  • If the cap is set too high, many older people in residential care will not live long enough to reach it – the average length of stay in a care home is 22 months.
  • Most of the proposed caps take no account of hotel costs – food, lodging and other non-care related costs - and therefore leave many older people at risk of catastrophic hotel costs.

The research also shows that:

  • A cap set at £100,000 of care costs only affects 5% of people and is only relevant after eight and a half years in care.
  • A £72,000 cap on care costs only affects 12% of people and is only relevant after 6.1 years in care.
  • A cap on care costs of £35,000 only affects 36% of people and is only relevant after three years in care.
  • A £100,000 cap that includes both care and hotel costs only affects 34% of people in residential care and is only relevant after 3.1 years in care.

Independent Age has been calling on Government to scrap the idea of a cap and instead introduce free personal care for older people, as enjoyed in Scotland. The charity states that this would virtually eliminate catastrophic costs and give every older person the right to free personal care.

George McNamara, Director of Policy and Influencing at Independent Age, commented, 'If the Government is serious about protecting older people from having to sell their homes or lose their hard earned savings then it’s time for them to scrap the idea of a cap.

'Catastrophic costs may not be a term used by many older people, but we know that many have an ever-present fear of losing their life savings or homes to pay for their care. The Government has a duty and responsibility to act.

'Free personal care, in contrast to the proposed caps, will end the worry of losing everything to fund care. It’s simple, fair and affordable and is the reform that the majority of people want to see.'

Responding to the report, Glen Garrod, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said, 'This report makes a useful contribution into one of the options which could be considered by Government to ensure that social care is delivered in a fair and equitable manner, no matter where you live or how much you can afford.

'It is also a timely reminder as to why it is absolutely vital that the Government publishes its social care green paper as soon as possible to allow a full and frank public debate on how adult social care will be funded in the short-, medium- and long-term.'

Read the Eliminating catastrophic costs report.


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