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Austerity measures cut social care provision
Millionaire health minister Jeremy Hunt has reneged on the Tories' election promise to cap social care costs for over 65s. The government was committed to limit care bills to £72,000 (still an enormous sum) next year, but this has now been shelved until 2020.
Hunt didn't even have the guts to announce it in the Commons, instead issuing a statement to the House of Lords on a day when MPs weren't in session. The government will 'save' £3 billion by postponing this recommendation of the earlier Dilnot commission report.
The deferral will cost huge sums of public cash (up to £100 million) having paid Saatchi and Saatchi to publicise the new cap, as well as spending money on new IT systems, staff training, etc.
According to media reports, plans for a new appeals system to challenge care-needs assessments and a new right for people, whatever their means, to ask their local council to arrange and pay for a care home place at lower rates, have also been shelved.
A limit on fees charged to elderly people for residential care is a major issue for millions of families. Currently, anyone with assets over £23,250 has to pay the full cost of their care. Over three million people over 65 years have care needs but only 850,000 qualify for state assistance.
It's estimated that 10% of people receiving such care will pay in excess of £100,000. Many are forced to sell their homes to pay these bills.
Councils are now expected to pay care fees up front as a 'loan', repayable from a person's estate after their death. But they only have to offer these loans if a person's non-property assets are less than £23,250.
Most home care has been outsourced from councils to private profit making companies. Under the Tories' shelved plan, those in residential care will still be responsible for food and lodging even when the £72,000 cap has been reached.
As the previous issue of the Socialist reported, the social care system is in meltdown due to a toxic mix of huge government funding cuts and privatisation. Since 2009, some 500,000 people have lost access to state help with washing, dressing and meals. And many elderly people remain stuck in hospital due to a lack of community care.
We need to end privatisation and ensure a fully-funded, publicly owned and run social care system. A socialist economy would guarantee such a system, free at the point of use.
Private, for-profit, companies represented by the UK Home Care Association have told Chancellor George Osborne that they can't afford to pay their carers next April's "national living wage" of £7.20 an hour, unless they get an extra £753 million of funding.
Around 90% of home care is now provided by private companies paid by cash strapped local authorities and the NHS. These companies are notorious for paying low wages. Many home care workers have complained about not being paid travel time between visits, meaning they are effectively paid below the current paltry minimum wage of £6.50 an hour.
The government's austerity cuts must be reversed, local authorities and the NHS should be properly funded, and carers should be paid a £10 an hour minimum wage as a step to a living wage.
That requires a mass movement to stop the cuts and a workers' government to renationalise the privatised public services and set a proper living wage.
In The Socialist 29 July 2015:
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