Government floats plan for £25,000 care charge in Wales

EVERY adult in Wales could be asked to make a one-off payment of up to £25,000 to pay for any future social care they may need.

This insurance model is one of three options outlined today by the Welsh Assembly Government in a Green Paper on the future of paying for care in Wales.

The three proposals mirror those announced by the UK government for England earlier this year.

And the paper will also outline the need for improvements in social care to meet the demands of Wales’ increasing older population. Services will be designed to help people live as independently as possible.

Gwenda Thomas, deputy minister for social services, said: “It is widely acknowledged that the current system of paying for care is complicated, unfair and unsustainable in the long term.

“That is why, last year, I initiated a national debate in Wales about how we should pay for care and support in the future.

“That consultation asked important questions of principle. The Green Paper takes that debate a stage further and sets out specific options for reform.”

The three options are:

* A partnership model – the state would meet 25% to 30% of care costs (not accommodation costs) for people and up to 100% of those on low incomes. This would mean that the average person, on an average income, would pay up to £22,500 towards social care;

* An insurance model – people would be able to indemnify themselves against all care costs for a one-off payment of £20,000 to £25,000. This could be a private insurance scheme or a state-based one similar to National Insurance and would apply to all;

* A comprehensive model – everyone over retirement age, who could afford to do so, would have to make a one-off payment of £17,000 to £20,000.

The Assembly and UK government prefer the partnership model but it is unlikely that any changes, which would require new legislation to be passed, will be introduced before 2014.

The current system of paying for social care has been dubbed unfair – it is means tested and has changed little over the years.

People who have capital – savings or they own their home – worth more that £22,000 must pay for all social care themselves. Those with capital of less than £20,250 receive their social care for free.

It is estimated that about 80,000 people in Wales receive some form of social care at a cost to the state of about £700m a year.

But the number of people receiving some element of social care – from home help to moving into a residential home – and the cost to the state is expected to rise as the over-60 population mushrooms in the next 20 years.

About 65% of those receiving social care in Wales currently do not pay anything towards it.

The Green Paper will also address the issue of paying for personal care – Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said that all those with critical care needs in England will be eligible for free personal care.

But it is understood that the Assembly Government prefers a “fairer” charge for such care, which includes home help. At the moment the maximum weekly charge for such care ranges from £16 a week in Rhondda Cynon Taf to £200 in Neath Port Talbot.

A new Assembly measure would introduce a maximum weekly charge of £50.

Mrs Thomas added: “This is a vitally important issue for all of us in Wales and it is essential that we get as wide a debate as possible going on in our home and communities.”

A 15-week consultation on the proposals in the Green Paper will run until February 2010. More information is available at