£360m Black Hole In Care For Elderly In Wales

A RADICAL shake-up of the care system in Wales is needed with rising numbers of frail, elderly people and a looming black hole in public funding, it was claimed yesterday.

The existing social care system is already under strain, but Assembly government officials yesterday warned of a £6bn “funding gap” in the UK – around £360m in Wales – within 20 years.

Deputy minister for social services Gwenda Thomas will today urge the public to give their views on how to pay for care in the future.

The consultation will examine how the system of paying for care needs to change to meet future demand and the balance of responsibility between the state, the individual and their families.

By 2018, the number of people aged 85 and over in Wales is projected to increase by 29% from 72,000 to 93,000, while those aged 65 to 84 will rise by 24% from 469,000 to 582,000.

Assembly ministers are asking if the Government should do more to ensure people prepare for the costs of their own care, for instance by making some sort of saving to cover costs compulsory.

They are looking into whether the system should be the same for everybody, or consider varying the ways support is given.

At present, elderly people needing care with assets of more than £22,500 – including the value of their home – must pay. This threshold is lower in England and Scotland.

Often families face being forced to sell their home to fund care of a loved one.

Mrs Thomas said: “Almost every family in Wales faces the reality that people they love may need care and support because of age or disability.

“Because of major changes, both demographic and societal, we have to think very carefully about how the care system will need to change in order to ensure that future needs and demands are appropriately met.

“It is therefore essential that as many people as possible, of all ages and backgrounds, join in the debate.”

Officials said yesterday there would be a “genuine debate” about funding for the care system.

The Assembly Government already plans legislation next year to make home care charges by local councils more consistent.

Governments in Wales and the UK must consider different models, ranging from private insurance, a national equity release scheme based on housing values, a partnership between state and individuals, or a social insurance model adopted in Germany and Japan.