The myth that older people north of the border get off ‘Scot-free’ when it comes to paying for care is oft perpetuated, yet in truth a large care bill can cost you your home. As Jeremy Hunt re-opens the debate in England, Age Scotland’s Callum Chomczuk asks ‘what next for Scotland?’
Ok most of you aren’t likely to be paying attention but this week Jeremy Hunt made in his first major speech since becoming Health Secretary at the Tory party conference in Birmingham.
He quite rightly highlighted the biggest priority for the NHS as meeting the challenges of an ageing population and as part of this agenda he would be looking to introduce the Dilnot proposals as soon as possible.
You have never heard if it? Alas you are not alone. Essentially this refers to the idea put forward last year by the economist Andrew Dilnot who called for a cap to be imposed on the residential care costs people face and also for the relaxing of capital threshold before means tested support is removed. What is means is that right now if you own your home then you will unlikely to be eligible for any support with residential care costs.
Now Mr Hunt’s his remit and power stops at Berwick (and for those of you who are just a bit sceptical of the healing power of homeopathy that may be a good thing). However that doesn’t mean that governments north and south of the border can’t learn from each other.
In Scotland we are all quite rightly proud of Free Personal and Nursing Care but when we discuss the fact that free care is limited to a narrow prescribed list of support packages and that most care still has to be paid for (will we call this a tax on disability?), that those assessed eligible for care are legally allowed to be placed on waiting lists if the council is a bit short of cash and that older people can be forced to sell their home to pay for long term residential care then we can get a bit sheepish about how great our care system is.
So where the UK Government is stealing a march on us in Scotland we should be big enough and ugly enough to take note and learn from their experience.
While these proposal may get watered down they are at least at this point being debated in England. In Scotland our focus on health and social care integration threaten to distract us from the other aspects of the care system that are in vital need of reform.
But let’s be honest this isn’t going to be free and the issue for us all whether a care cap is a good use of limited public funds. However for me allowing people to protect themselves against the risk of very high care costs and the risk of losing all their assets, including their house is a policy worth pursuing. The question is do you feel the same?
Callum Chomczuk is Age Scotland’s Senior Policy and Parliamentary Officer.