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By Debbie le Quesne

The Google search insight in the great capping debate

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Okay, so now we have at last been officially informed that the cap on care costs for families is £75,000.

Clearly we need to reform funding of the care system, but is this the answer? I suspect not.

What I do find worrying is that while MPs on the health select committee were considering the funding issues a year ago, they were surprised to learn that over a 12-month period there had been 29m Google searches on “How do I pay my care fees?”

The scale of the web inquiries points to a hugely anxious society, and the truth is, it still is.

I’ve ranted about the capping level before, so I won’t go there again. But we need to know that this measure is not designed to underwrite private care homes. It will pay out on pay out on council rates only as I understand it.

According to the Guardian on line, the analysis is thus: “Currently local authorities pay about £500 a week for residential care and so-called ‘hotel costs’. If your hotel costs are capped at £12,500 a year, then that means £240 a week. That leaves you liable for £260 a week to find from your own pocket on care – until you spend £75,000.

“That would take five and a half years. Most people stay in care homes for between two to three years. Even if you were to spend five and half years in a home, the government will only provide you with cash of £260 a week as a subsidy.

“Even worse is that currently you only get free elderly care if you have assets of less than £14,250. For every £250 in assets, the state can charge you a pound in contributions – up to a maximum of £36 a week, when you will have £23,250 in assets. And any richer than this the state says you have to pay. Under the new thresholds the elderly could face bills of about £420 a week in contributions.”

Clearly, if these scenarios are true, getting old can be a financially catastrophic business.

Perhaps the latest move is a signal, if nothing else, for planning for old age care – the ultimate solution.

Pre-funded care insurance, however, has not been popular and I cannot see that changing as many families battle the economy in survival mode.

Will the new proposals bring it back? I doubt it.

As I see it, the only good thing about the capping – good or bad – is that it moves the debate forward and confronts some hard choices which have to be made, with or without political will.

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