Charities "deeply disappointed" by Queen's Speech postponement in elderly care funding

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78 charities and campaign groups have written to the prime minister with a plea to end the "lottery" forcing elderly people to pay care home bills at the cost of their homes and life savings.

Elderly Care Home

The Care and Support Alliance, which co-ordinated the open letter to David Cameron, criticised the lack of a full Bill in the Queen's Speech on how to support an ageing population.

The government programme for the coming Parliament instead promised that the legal framework for care homes and home-help services would be modernised over the next year by way of a "draft Bill".

The Alliance chairman Simon Gillespie said charities, council leaders, pensioners' groups, nursing and care home operators were "deeply disappointed" by the postponement.

"The government has effectively broken its promise to introduce legislation to sort out social care," said Mr Gillespie. "The current crisis is condemning too many older or disabled people to a miserable existence."

Bupa Care Homes said the present system is "facing crisis" and "chronic underfunding", while council social services directors are pressing ministers to recognise the problem's urgency.

Clare Pelham, chief executive of the charity Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: "It is a question of fundamental decency that disabled and older people should be able to live their lives with dignity in Britain in the 21st century."

Jonathan Bruce, of the care agency Prestige Nursing+Care, said the delay would leave more people "struggling to survive".

"That so much focus appears to have been given to issues such as House of Lords reform suggests that members of the coalition government are playing politics when they should be thinking about the plight of the elderly," he said.

An early initiative by the coalition was an inquiry into how to stop many thousands of people being forced to sell their homes to pay for care home places, which can cost up to £30,000 a year.

State aid is currently unavailable to anyone with more than £23,500 in assets, including property.

However, the Treasury has refused to provide the £1.7 billion a year in extra funding required by a plan drawn up by the economist Andrew Dilnot.

The 2011 Dilnot inquiry proposed raising the means-test threshold to £100,000, with a lifetime limit for care payments capped at £35,000. The state would then cover any extra funding.

In a bid for a political solution, the opposition has joined the coalition in cross-party talks. However, warning that if ministers fail to act it will pull out, Labour said that the coalition had reneged on its promise of social care legislation.

The shadow minister for care, Liz Kendall, said: "Today we see them only committing to publish draft legislation on reform of social care law, with no commitment to introduce a Bill on reform of care funding in this session."

Janet Cooper, Head of Care Home Claims at Simpson Millar LLP said: "It is a real shame the elderly and the most vulnerable are not a priority for the political parties when there is a desperate need to address the cost of care. Care home charges sometime exceed the cost of staying in a five star hotel. We come across people who have had to sell their homes to fund the cost of care yet in the same home another patient has free or subsidised accommodation."

"The unfairness and unpredictability is costly to the most vulnerable members of our society. As the Country prepares to celebrate the Queen’s reign, a lady who is in her 80’s, how can we give scant regard to the vulnerable elderly of the same generation? They too deserve to be treated with respect and dignity."

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