by Dr. Ros Altmann
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Prioritising care funding only for the poorest elderly people could have dangerous consequences. The issue of UK care funding requires immediate attention, not as part of a phased approach initially focusing only on the very poorest. Leaving out those with moderate assets would mean much more NHS spending and increased suffering for those in need.
We currently have the meanest of means-testing structures in place where those with assets worth more than £23,250 are entitled to no help from the state and could stand to lose everything they ever saved to pay for their care. Meanwhile, those who are judged to have a care need that qualifies for NHS care or who may well have never saved or struggled with a mortgage will have their entire care costs covered by taxpayers.
The CSJ's suggestion to prioritise care funding for just the poorest individuals would merely reinforce the message that if you save for your future you could lose everything if you require care, but if you don't then the government will cover this cost. There is a precedent for these fears. The well-intentioned introduction of pension credit to target state pension spending only on the poorest pensioners has disincentivised many people from saving in private pensions altogether. Pension saving levels are at an all-time low and a similar system for care could discourage long-term saving.
The CSJ is right that more must be done to improve care quality and that a better-funded care system, which does not rely on cash-strapped councils with squeezed budgets, would help improve standards in recruiting, training and rewarding carers. Reforming the current system and incentivising people to share the cost of their own care in a Dilnot-style partnership approach could better achieve this aim.