Adult Social Care

A recent study found that the number of people in the UK over 85 will double by 2026.  Better lifestyles and ever-improving healthcare have meant that the average life expectancy has risen steadily over the last fifty years.

By 2031, 27 per cent of West Sussex's population will be over 65 and 3 per cent, some 24,500 people, will be over 90.

It has been predicted that for babies born in 2011, living to 100 will be an expectation rather than an accomplishment.

Of course, it is a great thing that people are living longer and fuller lives.  But the repercussions of longer lives have to be faced sooner rather than later

This is especially true of adult social care, an area where costs are growing and has never been part of the NHS.

The average 65 year old today will face a bill of some £35,000 over a lifetime for their care.  But in one case out of ten those costs exceed £100,000.

For many, the excitement of living a longer life is tempered by fear of the expense they will face when they can no longer look after themselves.  I know how much concern this causes to people in West Sussex, where we have an above average number of over-65s.

The Government has commissioned a review of social care provision led by the economist Andrew Dilnot, which was published on Monday.

Dilnot proposes a cap on the amount individuals should be expected to pay personally for their care of somewhere between £25,000 and £50,000.

He suggests that the threshold below which people should have their care costs met by the Government be raised from £23,250 to £100,000.

Finally, he recommends that a deferred payments scheme be introduced so individuals will not have to sell their homes to pay for care while they are alive.

These are interesting recommendations but the problem of implementing them will be the cost - £1.7 billion a year rising to £2.3 billion by 2014-15.

The Dilnot Commission will form the basis of cross-party talks to resolve this issue once and for all, and the Government's response and plan for the future will be published in the spring. 

Nobody should have to see their home and life-savings disappear so that they can live with dignity in their old age.

Equally, nobody can say that this will be an easy matter to resolve, but it is a problem that will not go away.

Christopher N Howarth