FRAIL elderly people will be able to keep their homes – but their children will inherit less under new proposals.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley unveiled the Government’s plan to reform social care funding yesterday.
The draft bill proposes allowing older people to pay for their social care through a loan which would be paid back after they died.
Huddersfield social care expert Dr Janet Hargreaves said: “If this plan goes ahead it would mean that a homeowner would be able to keep their house but when they died whatever they owed to the Government for their care would be taken from their estate.
“The elderly person would not have to sell their home but the sting would be that their estate would end up being much smaller. That’s why people are talking about this as a death tax.”
Dr Hargreaves, who is the associate dean of the School of Human and Health Sciences at the University of Huddersfield, explained why the Government wants to change social care funding.
“There’s massive demographic pressure because the number of frail older people is going up year after year after year,” she said.
“Financially, we’re in a recession and the money that we have to provide services, is limited.”
The Government has proposed bringing in so-called personal budgets, which would give older people the power to decide who cares for them.
But Dr Hargreaves said this could have mixed results.
“There’s an ideological move towards the individual being responsible so that they decide how to employ carers,” she said.
“For someone who is used to managing money, personal budgets will probably be a good thing as they will allow them to say ‘I don’t like that person, I’m going to sack them and get someone else.’
“But many frail elderly people are going to need someone to help them manage their budget.”
The draft Care and Support Bill also suggests setting national rules by 2015 about who is entitled to help at home and residential care places.
Currently each council in England draws up its own guidelines to decide who gets support.
Dr Hargreaves said: “The principle seems to be a fair one – that it shouldn’t matter where you live in the country.
“But I don’t know how the new system would be managed.”
Kirklees Council welcomed the care proposals yesterday.
A spokeswoman said: “The Government is setting up a Care and Support Transition Group and Implementation Board to work through these proposals, many of which would not be implemented until 2015 even if agreed through the Parliamentary process.
“Kirklees Council welcomes the structure of the draft bill and its emphasis on the person receiving care, the importance of promoting independence and choice and the recognition of the significance of quality assurance and good workforce development.
“We now look forward to the consultation process and the detailed work that will follow the announcement.”