Queen’s Speech 2012: Care and Support Bill Q&A

In this year’ speech to Parliament, the Queen announced a bill to modernise the UK care system. But what does it mean for for elderly and disabled people? Partner Chris Setford takes a look: How urgent is the need for social care reform? Extremely urgent – The current system is a patchwork of statutes and local authority interpretations, which is not only confusing but also increasingly unworkable due to increasing demand and fewer resources. Why is the change needed? Our system has evolved and was not planned; therefore there are great inequalities in the level of care and costs of care. With an ageing population the system simply cannot cope with the increased demand and as such a radical overhaul of the existing framework has been required for some time. Who will the changes affect? Given the increasingly ageing population, the changes could affect us all. In addition to those requiring care, the simplification of the social care system will reduce the stress on family members who want the best for their relatives whilst trying to negotiate the current minefield of benefits, entitlements and allowances involved in the current system. What are the problems the Care and Support Bill needs to address? The main problem is funding. Currently you will not receive local authority help unless your assets have been reduced to £23,500. For most older people who have paid off their mortgage and saved prudently, this means their life savings are eaten away in order to pay for care home funding. Additionally, the information provided by local authorities is not always clear, meaning many people feel they have no choice but to sell their home in order to cover the costs of care. This is not the case & many options exist but are rarely put forward. Does the bill go far enough? No – whilst the simplification of the processes set out in the Bill is welcome, the number one concern is funding for social care. The Bill talks about freedom and choice, but until the government sets out clear proposals increasing the limit for state funding from £23,500 there will continue to be great concern amongst the ageing population as to their financial future. What options are available to those concerned about covering the cost of care? People are often unaware of the options available to them in helping to reduce the burden of care funding. You can learn more about this in our blog entitled ‘Paying for care and planning for the future‘. Chris Setford is a founding Partner at Setfords Solicitors, based at the firm’s headquarters in Guildford, Surrey.