The Labour party has pledged free personal care for over-65s in England should it win the next general election. The pledge to help with dressing, washing and meals will be paid for by the state in England, and is estimated to cost £6bn a year.
Presently, those with savings of more than £14,250 have to contribute to the cost of home or residential help.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell is set to announce plans today (Monday September 23) for a National Care Service, which would more than double the number getting state-funded help in their old age.
Labour said it would give more details of how it would be paid for in its election manifesto but the Conservatives said the opposition’s already extensive spending commitments meant” there simply won’t be enough money to pay for it”.
The shadow Chancellor will say cuts to care funding since 2010 have left a million people not getting the care they need and”87 people dying a day waiting for care”.
Scotland has already introduced it and Wales and Northern Ireland each provide some level of universal entitlement. In Wales the cost of home care is capped, while in Northern Ireland the over-75s get it for free.
What is more, how much impact the policy has depends on the threshold that is set for accessing it. Even in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the bar for getting help is set very high. Only those with the most severe needs get it.
Based on Scottish figures, Labour said the move could save those currently self-funding their care almost £10,000 a year while 70,000 fewer families would be liable for”catastrophic” lifetime care costs in excess of £100,000.
“The next Labour government will introduce personal care free at the point of use in England.”
Responding to the Labour Party’s expected announcement later today that they would, if elected, introduce free personal care for older people, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The thousands of vulnerable older people who are left to fend for themselves every day without the care and support they need will welcome these proposals. Free personal care will help a lot more people with their day-to-day needs – this is the right and fair thing to do.
“This is a welcome commitment from the Labour Party but we need to see further details of how this would be delivered and how it would be paid for. It is the first step along the path to delivering the long-term reforms and funding required to abate the social care crisis, but this is an issue that has vexed successive governments and the detail here will be critical.
“It is also good to see Labour’s commitment to supporting our underpaid and overstretched social care workforce. Paying a living wage, offering training and improving working conditions will help attract, retain and look after those who care for the most vulnerable people in our society.
“However, whatever solutions are put forward by individual political parties will likely founder without cross-party input and support. This is one of the defining issues of our time and we need politicians from across the main parties to work together in the best interests of vulnerable older people, disabled working age adults and their carers.”
Sally Warren, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, said:
‘The social care system is not fit for purpose. Many older and disabled people who need help with basic tasks such as washing and eating are forced to rely on family, pay for care themselves or are unable to access care at all.
‘The case for reform is overwhelming and free personal care would be a good step. If funded properly, this will be simpler for people to understand and mean more people receive the help and support they need. But free personal care is not the same thing as free social care, and some people would still be left facing catastrophic costs of care.
‘Labour’s recognition of the importance of the social care workforce is welcome, but there is little detail in how those aspirations will be delivered and what it will cost. The lack of serious proposals to support working age adults is also disappointing. Working age adults account for around half of the public money spent on social care and they must not be forgotten when reforming the system.
‘Reducing the historic divide between means-tested social care and largely free-at-the-point-of-use NHS services could benefit thousands of people, but that does not necessarily require more services provided by local authorities. A properly funded new system should have space for public, private and voluntary sector care providers – a diversity that has been feature of social care for 30 years. Reforms to social care are desperately needed and should focus on creating a better funded and fairer system that delivers the quality of care that older and disabled people need and rightly expect.’