England’s broken care system is lagging well behind those in other major Western nations, a damning report warns today.
Patients are being forced to pay substantially more out of their own pockets compared to those living in France, Italy and Spain.
The analysis by Age UK is particularly critical of our ‘harsh’ means-tested system, which sees adults having to pay for their own residential care if their assets are worth more than £23,350.
This is stricter than in other countries – and results in thousands of families having to sell their homes every year.
The report criticises the unfairness of the English system, with dementia patients forced to pay more than those with cancer or heart disease.
And it brands England the ‘poor man’ of six Western nations – also including Germany and Japan – when it comes to care provision.
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The authors urge the Government to hasten its long-awaited social care green paper, which was meant to be published last summer but has been repeatedly delayed.
Now scheduled for autumn, it is expected to list a number of ways social care should be funded and improved. These could include making it compulsory to pay into an insurance scheme, introducing so-called ‘care ISAs’, and an unspecified cap on care costs.
However, all are likely to face significant opposition, raising the prospect it will be pushed back again. It comes after the Tories faced outrage last year after their so-called ‘dementia tax’ manifesto proposal.
Today’s report warns that ‘an entire generation of older people have lost out’ because ministers cannot agree on how to modernise the system.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘England has been left behind in the race to update the funding of care for older people.
‘As a result, our older people and their families are paying more and bearing a lot more of the risk.’
Mike Birtwistle of Incisive Health, the health policy agency that carried out the analysis, said: ‘Politicians of all parties have failed to take the decisions required … The result is care homes on the brink of collapse and too many older people treated unfairly.’
England’s social care system is under huge pressure from the ageing population and government cuts to council budgets. In the last 25 years successive governments have failed to reform it.
Most adults have to pay for all of their care if they have savings or assets of £23,250 or more. If they are moving into a care home, this may include the value of their home.
Even those below this threshold usually have to make some sort of contribution.
A care home costs between £30,000 and £40,000 a year, and the average cost of care in their own home for someone who needs 14 hours a week is about £11,000 – fees which can prove hugely burdensome.
Elderly people in Britain are being let down by a system which is not as helpful as that introduced in nations like Japan and France
Today’s report points out ministers have failed to change the threshold in line with inflation. It should now be at £25,559 but has remained stagnant – meaning even more people are being forced to fund their own care costs.
Funding pressures have also led to many councils slashing home care provision, with patients given fewer visits of as little as five minutes.
Previous figures have shown that approximately 1.2 million elderly and vulnerable adults in the UK are not receiving the care they need.
By comparison, the report praises France’s ‘progressive’ system where all residents pay into a compulsory insurance scheme. Even Spain, whose economy has stalled, are commended for doing ‘reasonably well.’ The Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘We have provided local authorities access to £9.4billion in dedicated social care funding over the last three years. Our green paper … will set out our plans to reform the social care system to ensure it’s sustainable.