Long term care
Last week a constituent came to one of my surgeries to raise concerns about the quality of care one of his parents was receiving in a residential home.
I recognise how much people worry about the care that they or their parents receive, the costs that they will build up and the possibility that they may have to sell their home to fund it.
As long ago as 1997 Tony Blair said that he didn't want children "brought up in a country where the only way pensioners can get long-term care is by selling their home". Yet, 13 years later we still don't have a solution.
The Government's answer has been to propose a ‘death tax', a compulsory levy of £20,000 when people die.
During the recent economy debate on Channel Four the chancellor appeared to rule this out, only for a complusory levy to appear again the next day when the proposals were set out in a little more detail. So the death tax lives on.
People who have saved and built up assets already pay a huge amount of tax when they die, and the death tax will only add to that burden. But even worse, it could also fall on the poorest who currently receive free care, and on those who are being cared for in their own homes. What's more, it won't include the substantial costs of accommodation. This means that many people will still have to sell their homes.
Rather than always resorting to a new tax as the solution to everything, I think that we need a fairer and more innovative approach.
So we've proposed a voluntary insurance scheme which would offer people a choice. Most people won't need this kind of care, so by pooling the risk the insurance costs will be kept relatively low, whilst at the same time offering peace of mind that all fees for residential care, including accommodation costs, would be waived for life.
We need to ensure that standards in our care homes are improved and that people can enter old age with dignity, confident that they can receive the best possible care without being unfairly penalised for saving. An unfair death tax is not the answer.