Health

Charities call for cross-party elderly care talks

Woman helping an elderly man to his door
Image caption Ministers are looking to revamp the social care system in England

Politicians should hold cross-party talks on reforming the care system for the elderly in England, charities say.

The 26 charities, including Age UK and the Alzheimer's Society, say political leaders "must not let reform fall off the table for another generation".

A review of social care funding, due out on Monday, is expected to recommend a cap on how much people must pay.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the level at which this was set was among details needing to be "resolved".

Under the current system, the support provided by councils is means-tested so that anyone with assets of more than £23,250 has to pay for all the cost of their care.

As a result, this has resulted in an estimated 20,000 people having to sell their homes every year to pay for care.

'Lottery'

A quarter of people aged over 65 can expect a bill of more than £50,000 for their care, and one in 10 pays more than £100,000.

Mr Lansley told the BBC that the current system was a "terrible lottery" and the goal was to prevent families suffering the "catastrophic loss of everything they have worked for in their lives" to be able to pay for care.

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Media captionHealth Secretary Andrew Lansley: "We know we need change"

Ahead of the publication of a long-awaited report by economist Andrew Dilnot on the issue, charities have urged all parties to work together to come up with a long-term solution.

"We cannot stick our heads in the sand and ignore the stark demographic reality of a rapidly ageing population and people with disabilities and long-term conditions living longer," they wrote to the Sunday Telegraph.

"Our political leaders must take this opportunity. Otherwise the terrible stories of the last months, of neglect and abuse of the most vulnerable, will only grow worse."

Mr Dilnot, chairman of the Commission on Funding of Care and Support, has said a cap on what people have to contribute to care costs could "take away the fear" that people would lose everything that they had built up, including the value of their house, in doing so.

He has suggested that while people will still have to pay towards the cost of care, the amount would be "much less" than at the moment.

'Sense of security'

Putting in place a cap could cost the Treasury between £2bn and £3bn, it has been estimated.

Mr Lansley told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme that although he had not seen the Dilnot report, ministers were likely to give it a "positive response" and "treat it as the basis for engagement" on the issue.

However, he said the level of any cap, how it would paid for and the threshold for means testing were among a "range of issues that need to be resolved".

Labour leader Ed Miliband has previously offered to engage in cross-party talks, promising to enter them with an "open mind". Efforts before the 2010 election to discuss the issue ended in acrimony with Labour and the Conservatives accusing each other of bad faith.

Mr Lansley said he would be willing to consider working with other parties but there had to be a "wider decision over the extent of costs and how costs would be met".

Any new system had to be predicated on providing greater "quality of care" and "sense of security" for people in old age, he added.

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