Wales politics

Policy on paying for social care 'must benefit the poorest'

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Media captionThe Welsh government said ministers would make a statement soon on social care payments

The Welsh government is being urged to set out plans on how much elderly people will pay for social care.

The UK government plans to cap social care costs for people in England.

Charity Age Cymru called on the Welsh government to come up with its own proposals that will help the least well-off.

The Welsh government said it had consulted widely on how to pay for social care and ministers would make a statement soon.

At present, people with assets of more than £23,250 pay for care in England and Wales. Means-tested help is available for those with less.

Critics say the system can force elderly people to sell their homes to fund their care needs.

The UK government announced in February that it would increase the means-tested threshold to £123,000 for people in England. The changes are due to happen in April 2017.

The coalition will also cap the amount people spend on care during their lifetimes to £75,000.

The Welsh government is waiting to see how much funding it will get from the English changes.

The amount of extra funding is worked out by the Treasury's Barnett formula which calculates changes to the Welsh government's budget.

Graeme Francis, of Age Cymru, told BBC Wales' Sunday Politics that reform was "long overdue" and that it "has been kicked into the long-grass by consecutive governments at UK and Welsh level over the last 10 to 15 years".

'Distinct path'

"It would be naive to think that funding and cost levels weren't a factor in this, particularly in these difficult economic times, but we think it is within the Welsh government's gift to design a system for Wales that benefits people who are the least well-off the most and we are not convinced that the English reforms do that," he said.

"So we think the Welsh government has an opportunity to take a distinct path on this."

The idea of capping costs was advocated by the Dilnot Commission which made proposals to reform social care in England.

Charities are disappointed that the UK government's plans fall short of the £35,000 cap recommended by Dilnot.

Wales' deputy social services minister Gwenda Thomas has commissioned advice from a panel of experts.

It is understood officials have estimated that introducing the Dilnot cap of £35,000 would cost the Welsh government around £84m a year, rising to £190m by 2025/26.

A Welsh government spokesman said: "There has been extensive consultation on paying for social care in Wales over a number of years including a Green Paper.

"Over the last nine months we have been consulting with key stakeholders in Wales to ascertain what kind of system would command broad public support here and whether such reforms should be built on the Dilnot proposals.

"A report on the outcome of that will be published soon with a ministerial statement on this important issue."

A Treasury spokesman said: "The social care cap is just for England.

"However, the devolved administrations will receive Barnett consequentials of any changes in UK departmental budgets in the normal way."

Claire Davis, a partner at Howells Solicitors and Welsh director of Solicitors for the Elderly, said the Welsh government had some "breathing space... but as and when the UK government start to set out their policies - and the devil will be in the detail - then at that point in time I think the Welsh assembly government should have something ready to announce.

"But at the moment I don't know what they're doing."

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