Ministers to set out plans for care of older people

The Government will today finally set out its plans for the long-term care of older people. Years of waiting will be ended with the announcement by the health secretary of the Green Paper on long-term care of older people.

It will set out key changes to the way care is provided for but – more importantly – set out how people will pay for it.

The current system is still based on the Poor Laws which established the Work Houses in Victorian times.

The rising number of older people, the fastest growing group in the UK, is adding to the strain on the means-tested system.

Increasing numbers are being forced to sell their homes to pay for care but charges and quality vary widely across the country – leading campaigners to claim there is a postcode lottery of care.

Anyone with assets of £23,500 or more pays for their own care.

But adding to the inequality is the fact that people living in Scotland does not have to pay for their care.

That cost is set to rise – one estimate predicts a four-year stay in a care home will soar from £112,312 to £223,476 by 2028.

Local authorities, which assess and provide care have been forced to withdraw support for people to those with the most severe need.

The central idea, widely touted by politicians including former health secretary Patricia Hewitt, is for an insurance scheme which would protect homes and savings.

But delays have turned the issue into a major political row and many predict real change will be delayed until after the general election.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said ‘This publication will come after 12 years of broken promises to look at this issue.

‘If the government merely plans to publish an options paper, then the problem will be kicked into the long grass once again. If that happens, then the Conservative Party will bring forward its own proposal for the funding of long-term care.’

Allan Bowman, chairman of advisory body the Social Care Institute for Excellence, said: We’ve got to end this postcode lottery in social care and we’ve got to find a way of achieving a national approach, that ensures people get the best quality of care at whatever fair price can be achieved.’