Late Wednesday night, a manifesto pledge from the Conservatives was revealed by the press prior the manifesto launch on Thursday. It was their policy on pensioners and care. Firstly, they are to remove the winter fuel allowance from rich pensioners and secondly, remove the upper limit on what people can be expected to pay for their care. At first glance these policies seem like token gestures, especially the former. However, if you look at it in more detail, it shows something that is a concern.
Labour have mentioned heavily about protecting pensioners but how do their policies on care stack up to the Conservatives? What do the details of the policies show each party are offering?
The Labour Party have said that in their first term, they would lay the foundations of a National Care Service. Firstly, they would address the funding crisis by immediately increasing social care budgets by £8 billion over the lifetime of the next parliament, with £1 billion being invested in the first year. They have stated that this would be enough to pay carers a real living wage without cutting the quality of care provided.
This will allow implementation of the Ethical Care Charter adopted by 28 councils, end 15-minute visits and provide carers with paid travel time, access to training and an option to choose regular hours. They have also said they would increase the Carer’s Allowance for unpaid full-time carers to align with the benefit rates of Jobseeker’s Allowance. Labour’s manifesto says the National Care Service is to be built alongside the NHS “with a shared requirement for single commissioning, partnership arrangements, pooled budgets and joint working arrangements.”
As previously mentioned the Conservatives have pledged to get rid of winter fuel allowance from rich pensioners, this will kick up a fuss with the traditional Conservative voter but is largely a token gesture to dampen the blow on the second policy. The wording is purposefully misleading, to recap, the policy is to remove the upper limit on what people can be expected to pay for their care. What does this mean?
When you go into care if your capital is worth £23,250 and above, you must pay 100% of your care fees. However, if your capital is between £14,250 and £23,250 it would mean you are entitled to assistance with funding but the local authority will consider this income, this is the same if your capital is above the £23,250 threshold but over time decreases below this. If you are below the £14,250 then the local authority will not take into the income when deciding how much assistance you need.
The Conservative policy will raise the higher threshold to £100,000, but will also include for the first time, the value of homes. If you have assets worth more than £100,000 then you will have to pay for care, which is the majority of homeowners. The policy was only sustainable through removing an overall cap of costs payable by those who need care, meaning private companies can charge what they want, and reducing the value of estates that can be passed on through inheritance.
It was reported that “the Conservatives will attempt to soften the blow by promising that pensioners will not have to sell their homes to pay for their care costs while they or a surviving partner are alive. Instead, products will be available allowing the elderly to pay by extracting equity from their homes, which will be recovered later when they die or sell their residence”.
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