West Country pensioners still face large bills for care in old age despite an historic reform to cap the costs of paying for residential and nursing homes.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday confirmed in the House of Commons a £75,000 cap on social care – more than double the £35,000 suggested by the independent Dilnot commission two years ago.
But the cap covers only the cost of personal and nursing care.
It does not include “accommodation” costs for bed and board, food and heating, with some estimating costs could easily hit £150,000.
A separate annual cap of £12,500 will be placed on these costs, which the individual will have to pay. In addition, the means test threshold for state help will be increased to £123,000 of savings and assets from a meagre £23,250.
In the round, it means an individual with more than £123,000, including equity in their home, will pay all personal care costs until the £75,000 cap is reached.
Given soaring house prices in the region in the past decade, raising the means testing threshold will still mean many in the West Country pay large sums for care.
Mr Hunt said the reforms would begin in 2017 and have been driven by up to 40,000 people a year having to sell their houses to pay for their care costs. But the National Pensioners Convention claimed the reforms would help just one-in-ten of those needing care.
Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, said many in the region were “property rich but income poor”, so the reforms were welcome. But the Cornwall MP, who serves on the Commons health select committee, called for ministers to be “honest on real costs”.
He added: “When people plan for the worst case scenario they should be fully aware that the costs may be a great deal more than £75,000.
“As people would still have to pay for their ‘board and lodging’ costs in a residential nursing or care home, the eventual bill could be more than twice the £75,000 cap. Raising the eligibility threshold for free care from the present £23,500 of assets to £123,000 will be particularly welcome.”
Former health minister Ben Bradshaw, the Exeter Labour MP, said the £75,000 cap was “very high” and would mean “most people in the West Country who currently have to fund their care still will”.
But Sarah Newton, Conservative Truro and Falmouth MP, said establishing the principle of a cap made the announcement a “landmark day”.
“If the financial situation improves the cap could go down,” she added. But she said raising the means-testing threshold was hugely significant.