Who should pay for long term care?

Identifying the problem is easy. Finding the solution is not.

Simon Stevens , head of the NHS has said lack of social care and delays accessing services are wiping out swathes of NHS capacity - the equivalent of 36 hospitals on any one day.

Latest figures show 18,000 hospital beds filled by patients stuck in hospital for at least three weeks, often without medical need, he said. “A lot of that is attributable to difficulties getting discharged and the social care support that people need. That is the equivalent of having 36 of our acute hospitals out of action.”

He said homes should be used to fund social care instead of major tax rises on those of working age.

Mr Stevens told a House of Commons inquiry: “I think there are big questions about intergenerational fairness and what the right way to raise resources is, given the relatively advantaged position of my parents’ generation relative to my children’s generation.”

Highlighting the £1.5 trillion “accumulated housing wealth” held by those in retirement, he suggested any “sustainable” solution would make use of such assets.

“Where people have got resources then that needs to form part of the funding answer,” he said.

That all makes sense, but where do you draw the line? There has to be a balance between the right to protect your assets and the right for the government to take advantage of those assets for the general interest of society to pay for social care.

Imposing a blanket ‘tax’ on property for those fortunate enough to have accumulated assets but unlucky enough to need care is simply unfair - the poorest will lose out and this will affect our area disproportionately to other places in the UK. Property ownership in Furness for those in the age bracket that need long term care has been hard earned. With an upper limit of £23,250 and care costs of £40,000 a year, someone with a terraced house in Barrow and a bit of savings could see their assets pretty much wiped out in 2-3 years in care.

The Government is due to publish a green paper on social care this spring, which will consider how best to fund care for an ageing population. The Prime Minister is also expected to announce a funding increase for the NHS, as part of a long-term funding plan.

The comments come amid argument about whether any future funding increases for the NHS should come via an ear-marked tax and a month after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there will be a cap on “punitive” social care costs. But what size cap and will it ever get out of the long grass. We have been here before.

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