Social care pledges for elderly receive cautious welcome

Organisations representing the elderly welcomed the pledges on social care featured in the Queen’s speech today, but said the government should have gone further in instigating overdue reform of the widely-derided existing system.

Free personal care and the help with fuel poverty will bring “welcome relief for some of the poorest and most vulnerable older people”, said joint charity Age Concern and Help the Aged.

Local councils would have to be properly funded to deliver free personal domiciliary care, to remove the potential of them having “perverse incentives to either push older people into residential care homes earlier than needed or assess their needs as not critical enough to warrant free care at home”, the charity said.

Stephen Burke, chief executive of Counsel and Care, said the government should introduce a new care duty on estates. This would raise money, he said, to fund the promised new national care service so it can cater properly for the needs of the rapidly ageing population.

Everyone receiving care services at home should get them free, paid for out of general taxation, and not just those with the greatest needs covered by today’s announcement, said Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention.

She added that other measures were also needed to ensure that older people’s welfare remained a top political priority, such as improving the standards of care services and action to enhance the quality of life for the 500,000 people in residential care homes.

James Lloyd, an expert in long-term care funding at the Social Market Foundation thinktank, said creating a fair and properly funded system would need the political parties to agree and for everyone, both young and old, to contribute financially.

“Reform will therefore never be a vote-winner, and will only come about when the parties act in concert,” added Lloyd, who recently gave evidence on care funding to the health select committee.

“For the public to buy into reform they have to know that the rules of the game won’t alter every time there is a change of government. Everyone in social care realises this, except the politicians.”