‘U-turn’ by ministers could mean thousands still lose their homesPosted on:
New betrayal of middle classes over care home costs: ‘U-turn’ by ministers could mean thousands still lose their homes.
- Coalition had previously pledged no one would need to sell homes to meet care home costs while they were still alive
- Emerged there will be a cut-off for the ‘deferred payment’ scheme
- Will only apply as a matter of course to those with assets less than £23,500
- Labour peer said apparent U-turn has been done ‘in a back-door manner’
- Lord Lipsey said the manner of the change ‘disgraces the Government’
- Health Minister Earl Howe said 40,000 people may have to sell up per year
Ministers were accused last night of betraying pensioners over a pledge they will not have to sell their homes to fund care.
The Coalition had promised that no one would have to meet the cost while they were alive. It said Government-backed loans would cover hiring home helps and care home fees, and be repaid from the person’s estate after they had died.
But yesterday it emerged that, far from being universal as billed, the ‘deferred payment’ scheme will apply as a matter of course only to those with other assets of less than £23,500.
The House of Lords heard that the apparent U-turn means tens of thousands of middle-class pensioners will still have to go through the trauma of selling their homes, denying their children an inheritance.
‘This has been done in a back-door manner which disgraces the Government,’ said Labour peer Lord Lipsey. ‘The Government has welshed on the deal.’
It will be up to local councils to decide whether pensioners with assets that exceed £23,250, excluding their property, can have a loan, the Lords heard.
When Andrew Lansley, then health secretary, announced the scheme in July last year, it was called ‘universal deferred payments’ – making no mention of a cut-off and giving the clear impression that everyone would be covered.
‘From April 2015, we will ensure that people will be able to delay selling their home to pay for residential care,’ he said
His announcement followed a report in 2011 by the Dilnot Commission – set up by the Coalition to examine how to fund the spiralling cost of care, which currently forces tens of thousands to sell their homes each year.
Its main recommendation was to limit individuals’ contribution to social care costs to £35,000, after which the state would pay.
The Government is proposing to implement a cap on care costs of £71,000 to come into force in 2016. However this cap will not include the ‘bed and board’ costs of a care home – some £10,000 a year.
Lord Lipsey, a member of a Royal Commission in the 1990s on the funding of care for the elderly, told peers: ‘The original scheme as put forward by the Dilnot Commission has had its b**** cut off by the Government.
‘If you have got more than that you have to spend down until you get to £23,250 in the bank or wherever it is and then you can consider a deferred payment scheme.
‘Most people who have reasonably valuable houses – and they are most of the people who are likely to be wanting this – will have far more than £23,250 in other assets and most of them won’t feel the least bit happy if before they can get any help from the deferred payment scheme they have to spend down until they have got less than £23,250.’
Health Minister Earl Howe admitted up to 40,000 people might have to sell their homes every year but denied that the Dilnot recommendations had been emasculated.
He said there would be circumstances where local authorities must offer deferred payments but the proposed legislation provided additional powers to offer deferred payments more widely. The Government was consulting on this.
‘We need to ensure that this arrangement is rolled out in a way that is financially sustainable for the local authority in each case,’ he said.
Urging ministers to think again, Lord Lipsey warned of a ‘tsunami’ of opposition to the Government’s plans.
Labour’s Lord Warner, a member of the Dilnot Commission, said it was ‘pretty rough’ for the Government to give the impression that it was implementing its recommendations on deferred payments ‘when they palpably aren’t’.