2 June 2017

Social care at the election: not just a dementia tax

It’s not often that social care policy grabs the national headlines and even less often when it grows from the details of a political party manifesto.

It’s interesting therefore to see, on an issue directly affecting one’s personal circumstances, how the news coverage feels and reflects the situation one is in, although celebrating its headline status.

First, why was it ever dubbed the ‘dementia tax’ when there are many of us with long term physical conditions affected by the policy?

The cost of paying for intensive care support at home is just as likely to affect working disabled people as their conditions deteriorate.

Another difficulty has been the politicians' justification of the term ‘wealthy’ to describe those people with houses worth more than £100,000 when this does not cover the cost of a house in most parts of the country. I’m not sure if these were politicians with duck houses worth most of that!

Finally it seems to belittle the situation one is in and the planning one has done to cover the social care costs in preparation for retirement. For example I have been planning for this eventuality for 25 years since it became obvious it would be a reality if my long term family carer was no longer able or willing to provide support.

I estimate, as a person with social work qualifications, that it would cost £75,000 a year to meet my 24 hour care costs. How can we prepare for such eventualities without family wealth to draw on?

Since they started in the 90’s I have always saved and not drawn on the annual ISA tax free allowance. In addition a dozen years of a fairly generous money purchase pension topped up with voluntary contributions has become more flexible with recent pension legislation. So I have chosen to keep this as a lump sum and rely instead, for my current living costs, on the state pension and DLA.

Of course what we all, who are in this situation, need is a ‘cap’ on expenditure on care costs so that we don’t fear living beyond our resources. This will also I understand allow social care insurance to have viable options. Sir Andrew Dilnot, whose interparty social care commission previously had the ‘social care cap’ agreed and enshrined in the 2015 Care Act, has offered sound advice in recent days. He encourages us to keep up the pressure on this issue until after the election so that it can be proposed in the newly promised government green paper and become a policy proposal for implementation this time.