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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 September 2007, 23:27 GMT 00:27 UK
Elderly care funding 'causes misery'
By Richard McIlroy
5live Report

Elderly woman
Next year will see more pensioners in the UK than children and ever more people will be facing up to huge bills for the cost of continuing care of the elderly.

For individuals, the magic number in England is £21,500. If you have assets of more than that to your name, you are liable to pay for your own funding.

Many elderly people faced with the costs of long term care have been forced to sell their homes or transfer their property and other assets to their children or other relatives.

The 5live Report has found that the system is a quagmire of red tape and bad advice, with rules being interpreted differently across the country.

It's heart-breaking to see your parents to go into a pitiful decline and not be able to help them fully
Liz Penney

Journalist Liz Penney and her sister were faced with looking after their parents who both needed care at the same time. NaÔvely they used £50,000 of savings to pay for their father's care.

It was only after that had dried up, that they discovered he could have had that care for free as the savings were in their mother's name. But they couldn't get the money back

Family impact

"We were very angry about that," says Liz.

"It's driven my sister and I close to despair and exhaustion for two and a half years.

The system at the moment is not working for the majority of people
Owain Wright
SAGA

"We've more or less ignored our own children. We've had to throw all our own energies into our parents.

"And it's heartbreaking to see your parents to go into a pitiful decline and not be able to help them fully."

Owain Wright, head of care funding at Saga, encounters similar stories all the time.

"I think it is generally held that the system at the moment is not working for the majority of people," he said.

"Mainly because, if everyone who should get it did, then the system would crumble.

"Also the criteria are not great so we're finding Primary Care Trusts finding ways to deny people continuing care when perhaps a reasonable person might say they're eligible."

Simplified rules

In October, the government will implement new rules intended to provide a simplified national standard for who will foot the bill for looking after millions of pensioners.

The aim is to standardise decisions on who is eligible for continuing care.

The Care Service Minister Ivan Lewis says the new system will be "fairer and more convenient for both patients and professionals".

The government expects the new system will cost up to an extra £220 million in the first year of operation.

But the overall cost of looking after all the elderly in the UK runs to £42 billion a year according to the charity CareAware.

While acknowledging that the changes will go some way to ease the funding gap, critics say there are still millions of families facing financial meltdown to ensure that their loved ones receive the right care

Those with the most serious conditions are entitled to fully funded continuous care. But it can be very difficult to prove.

Long battle

Former Scotland Yard detective Mike Pearce was faced with covering the cost of his mother's care and for three years he battled with her local authority after her condition was deemed not serious enough.

Eventually he won his case and the £50,000 he had spent on care for his ailing mother, that he had to go to such lengths to pay, still leaves a bad taste in his mouth

"In the notes they couldn't spell the word Alzheimer's. That left me with little faith that they knew what they were talking about.

"I have prepared cases for the Old Bailey and this was the most shambolic, amateurish escapade I've ever come across."

5live Report: The cost of elderly care can be heard at 1100BST on Sunday 9 September and will also be available at the 5live Report website.The programme is made by All Out Productions.


SEE ALSO
Reform call for care of elderly
28 Jan 07 |  Health
Funds to boost care for elderly
14 Nov 06 |  Health

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