Yesterday the Coalition Government announced an historic reform to the way we pay for long-term care.
This package of measures will end unlimited care costs and provide more help for those who are less well-off.
There are two key reforms:
· A cap of £75,000 on the amount that anyone will have to pay for care·
A massive increase in the means test threshold from £23,250 to £123,000. This means that more people with modest wealth will get help from the state with the costs of care. Anyone with assets below this level will get help paying for care.
The current system is a lottery. If you develop cancer, the NHS will pay for your treatment.
But if you develop dementia, and need help with washing, dressing and going to the bathroom, you have to pay for your care. One in ten people are hit with catastrophic costs of more than £100,000.
At a time when public finances are so tight, finding the right solution was a huge challenge. But the plan we have set out is fairer, simpler and more sustainable than the current system.
The Liberal Democrats in Government fought hard for this historic achievement. The Labour Government failed to do anything to reform an unfair system during their 13 years in office.
Alongside other steps, such as extra protection for people who develop care needs as a child or during their working life, these reforms will help provide dignity and security for all of us in later life.
Further more the big change is that at the moment, there is no limit at all on the amount you have to pay for care and most people don’t get help either because they have assets in excess of £23,000.
So, whilst it would be desirable to have free care for everyone, it’s unaffordable at present because of the financial state of the country after 13 years of profligate Labour borrowing plus the world financial crisis. (Indeed it’s LD policy to move towards free care, once the UK can afford it)
So this welcome change to the rules may not benefit everyone, but it IS a step in the right direction. No government in the past 40 years has actually made a decision on any sort of change and they have actively avoided making a decision because they always said the cost was too high. All credit to the current government, who, prodded by the Lib Dems, have actually made a decision that will help lots of people.
Just as an aside, National Insurance long long ago ceased to be a tax to provide health care. In reality it is just income tax by another name. Liberal Democrats want to stop pretending that it is somehow a charge for health care and simply make it part of income tax, though an allowance will have to be made to allow pensioners to stop paying it once they stop working as they already don’t pay NI.