Social care plan could see pensioners pay £20,000

ELDERLY people could be required to pay up to £20,000 for their social care under proposals outlined today on meeting the cost of looking after an ageing population.

Basic care and support could be covered by a state insurance scheme that everyone over retirement age pays into if they can afford it.

Coverage for those able to pay could cost £17,000 to £20,000, compared with the average care bill of £30,000 – excluding accommodation – facing today’s 65-year-olds.

It is one of three options for reforming an “unsustainable” system of funding social care for elderly and disabled people that the Assembly Government is seeking feedback on.

First published by the UK Government for England in July, ministers in Cardiff are also consulting on the proposals because delivering social care is devolved to the Assembly.

They include:

A “partnership” that splits the cost of care, excluding accommodation, between the state and the individual. Recipients of a basic package would get around a quarter or a third of their care paid for and contribute £20,000 to £22,500 themselves.

Insurance that allows people to cover themselves against all care costs by paying between £20,000 to £25,000 to a private insurer or a National Insurance-style scheme.

A comprehensive system where everyone over retirement age who can afford it pays £17,000 to £20,000.

Wales spends £1.4 billion on social care a year, about half of which goes on older people. The number of people aged over 60 is expected to grow from about 600,000 to 800,000 in the next 20 years.

Today’s Green Paper is out for consultation until February, after which the Assembly Government will put its findings to Westminster. A similar consultation on the subject was run last year.

The Government is also asking whether insurance costs should be paid in instalments or as a lump sum, before or after retirement, or after death.

Deputy minister for social services, Gwenda Thomas, 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. This Green Paper takes that debate a stage further, and sets out specific options for reform.”

She 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 homes and communities.

“I would encourage everybody to read and respond to this Green Paper, so that our discussions with the UK Government are as informed as possible.”