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News - 6 January 2012

Politicians urged to seize chance to change social care

Politicians from all parties have been urged to work together later this month to find a way to overhaul the "failing" social care system in England. The last time Cross-party talks were held about the care given to the elderly and disabled was in 2010 when attempts to reform the system collapsed before the last election.

In an open letter, sent to the Prime Minister and published in the Daily Telegraph, 72 signatories, including leading figures from charities such as Carers UK and Age UK, as well as peers, academics and members of the British Medical Association and NHS Confederation, have suggested they should not squander the opportunity.

The letter said: "We should celebrate the fact that we are all living longer lives, particularly disabled people and those with long-term conditions.

It cited research produced by Age UK which suggested that of the 2m people with care needs, 800,000 were not getting any support because councils had started restricting access to services.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, Lib Dem health minister Paul Burstow and shadow health secretary Andy Burnham are expected to hold the first in a series of meetings within the next few weeks.

Last summer a government-commissioned review by the economist Andrew Dilnot recommended a partnership between the state and individual with people responsible for the first £35,000 of their social care costs and the government picking up the bill after that.

Mr Burnham said that reforming social care was the "biggest public policy challenge the country faces".
"This is an issue that transcends party politics and we look forward to playing our part in any discussions."

How does social care work?

• To get state-funded social care individuals are assessed on needs and means.
• Each council sets its own threshold for how incapacitated a person has to be to be eligible for help. Most have been increasing this bar in recent years.
• If someone does qualify for help, the amount of savings they have is taken into account.
• Those with savings of under £13,000 get free care.
• Between £13,000 and £23,250 individuals have to contribute to the costs. Above the higher amount they have to pay for all of it themselves.
• A government-commissioned review published in the summer suggested changes to this system.
• The review, carried out by economist Andrew Dilnot, recommended a new partnership between the state and individual.
• People needing care should be responsible for the first £35,000 of costs with the state picking up the tab for the rest, he said.
• The cross-party talks that are getting under way this month will use these recommendations as the basis for trying to reach agreement on the funding situation.

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