Elderly care system is broken, says Dilnot

There really needs to be cross-party consensus on tackling the problem facing the elderly care sector or these vulnerable people risk losing everything to pay for their care, the government’s chief adviser Andrew Dilnot has said.

Saying that reform to the system was “hugely overdue”, Dilnot called on the leaders of all parties to change the system whereby elderly people have to sell their homes to pay for later life care. Around 20,000 people a year have to do this.

Dilnot’s commission looking into the issue had recommended there should be a limit of £35,000 on what elderly people pay for their care, with the government covering anything about this. However, the Treasury is said not to be impressed that this would cost around £1.7bn a year.

“The systems we have for providing the care that older people need are broken, not fit for purpose, and hugely overdue for reform,” Dilnot wrote in The Daily Telegraph. “If you face high care costs, you are on your own, because the state will only pay when you have exhausted all your wealth, and the private sector will not offer you insurance because the uncertainty over future costs is too great. Everyone we spoke to about the current system reported a sense of great fear and anxiety, because they felt there was nothing they could do to prepare.”

David Rogers, chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, insisted that local government accepted the urgent need for overhauling the system – but the problem was money.

“Councils are committed to doing the very best for people later in life,” he said, “but local authorities are having to balance the long-term triple pressures of insufficient funding, growing demand and escalating costs and despite their best efforts, they are having to make tough decisions about the care services they can provide to the countless number of people who rely on them.”

He added: “For too long governments have toyed with adult social care reform but there has been no fundamental reworking of the foundations. Creating an adult social care system fit for the 21st century is one of the most important issues this country is facing. Politicians need to transcend political point-scoring and act now to make the system fairer, simpler and fit for purpose in order to truly meet the needs of the elderly and most vulnerable in our society.”