By Debbie le Quesne

Tonight documentary – a window on the care crisis

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Last night the pain of reality for those caught in a familiar care trap was broadcast on our TV screens.

The Tonight documentary – Looking After Mum And Dad – took a snapshot of the soon-to-be law Care Bill and how an exhausted Gill Denhamcan be up “20 to 30 times a night” as she tries to care for her dementia sufferer mum, Mabel, who is 98, and dad Bill, aged 93.

The dialogue was heart-rending with Gill caught between the guilt, loyalty and a financial lock on getting funding for the care. She has given up work, has no social life and oddly, it seems neither the NHS or local authority is stepping in.

I can only hope with the media exposure things will now change for the whole family.

Currently, if you have assets of £23,250 or over, you are responsible for all your care costs in your elderly years. Gill gets a carer’s allowance – just under £60 a week – and her mum’s care costs run at £48 for three hours of help each week.

Gill’s biggest is worry is that she may lose her home to fund future care.

She said: “I find that my previous life is almost like a dream. The reality now is that I don’t think about tomorrow. I try not to because it frightens me too much.”

We are all hoping that the Care Bill we bring some relief to this situation and countless other just like it. But, frankly, the jury is still out.

Under the Bill, a limit on what any one person has to pay for care is set at £72,000. But what Tonight called the “small print” can be alarming.

Presenter Julie Etchingson introduces fictional cartoon character Mary, aged 82.

She owns her home, but has to go into care. Currently if she has assets worth less than £23,000 (including the value of her house) the government will step in to help with care funding.

In the future that assets threshold will be £118,000. In the example, let’s say Mary’s cap is reached after three years, but because of ‘hotel’ costs she has actually spent £124,000 getting there.

Fees for things like electricity, gas, water, food, and laundry are not included in the care budget.

Note, our character Mary pays her fees, but the local authority assess that she could get care for less, so that any amount she pays above their assessment figure is not factored in to the £72,000 cap.

When that cap is reached, the government will fund £21,600 every year for her care costs.

She will continue to pay the top-ups, thus reducing her assets.

Etchingson has done a good job with this piece of journalism and I would certainly recommend watching the broadcast on catch-up (www.itv.com/itvplayer/tonight/series-20/episode-3-looking-after-mum-and-dad-tonight).

For sure, despite reassurances from ministers, none of us in the care sector have clue what the legal modernisation will mean is real applications. As I said, the jury is still out.


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