As new PENSIONERS could be forced to pay up to £20,000 towards social care as part of new government proposals.
research shows the number of elderly people in Cumbria is set to rise by more than five per cent over the next eight years, the government has unveiled plans to overhaul the welfare system for older members of society.
Health Secretary Andy Burnham has put forward three options to replace the current system, which could see pensioners paying for their own care through personal insurance schemes or top-up fees. He ruled out a service entirely funded by the state but set out a series of options to pay for improved access to care.
In a Commons statement he said the current arrangements amounted to a "cruel lottery" which saw some pensioners forced to sell their homes in order to fund care.
He said half of all men and two-thirds of women over 65 would have a need for some form of care, costing a typical £35,000.
The Green Paper set out three options for sharing the cost of care between the state and the individual. One model would see the state fund either a third or a quarter of care costs, with the rest met by the individual.
A second option would involve taking out voluntary insurance, costing between £20,000 and £25,000 each. The third option set out would mean a comprehensive scheme with everyone paying into a state insurance fund at a cost of £17,000-£20,000.
Under all three plans, the poorest will have their full care package paid for by the state.
Mr Burnham said all three options could cost the state around the same as the current annual budget of £14.7 billion. Under current rules, anyone with savings of more than £23,500 or their own home is not entitled to help.
He said: "It is a real injustice that people who have worked all their life and paid taxes all their life, if they are unlucky enough to develop a condition like Alzheimer's in later life, they get no help to deal with the implications of that condition.
"The way we look after our older people defines what we are as a country and I believe we can do better than we are today."
But Margie Arts, secretary of Barrow and Furness Pensioners' Association, said pensioners should not have to pay extra when they had already contributed throughout their working lives.
Mrs Arts said: "We, having paid our National Insurance contributions or having had them credited because of family responsibilities, consider that we have paid for our care in our later years.
"The crashing burden of bills for what should be our right is something that just should not be borne. My personal view is that too many snouts have been lowered into the pot of money that should be providing services for us older people."
Margaret Burrow, honorary secretary of Barrow and District Disability Association, said: "I think it is absolutely dreadful. There is no incentive for people to buy their own homes because it will get taken off them in later life.
"People are not entitled to help if they have a home or more than £23,500, which is a ridiculous amount, it should be much higher than that. That definitely needs reviewing."
North-west Evening Mail, 17th July 2009