National minimum standard for elderly care to be introduced

Changes to national rules on social care funding will be announced this week that will make it easier for elderly people to move around the country if they need to follow relatives.

Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, will unveil the reform on Wednesday in a white paper, which will also introduce a national eligibility threshold setting out the minimum care each elderly person is entitled to wherever they are in the UK.

The reforms come as cross-party talks on funding long-term care for the elderly appear to have broken down. Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, has taken exception to a unilateral decision by Lansley to publish a progress report on Wednesday on funding care.

In this report David Cameron and Lansley will announce that the government accepts the broad principles of a review by Andrew Dilnot, an Oxford economist, which proposes a £1.7bn scheme for funding long-term care.

The report recommendsthat the state should help with care costs if an individual has savings and assets below £100,000, rather than the current £23,250. It also recommends a cap of £35,000 on the amount that any individual has to pay towards their own care costs in their lifetime.

However, the prime minister believes the government is unlikely to be able to fund the scheme fully in the next spending round, due in 2014 – hence Lansley’s interim report examining the funding.

Wednesday’s care and support white paper will bring in two reforms to care:

  • A national minimum eligibility threshold that sets out the care to which elderly people are entitled, reassuring them of a minimum level of funding for social care wherever they are, and ending what is described as a postcode lottery on funding.
  • Rules on “portability” to make it easier for elderly people to move around the country, possibly to be nearer relatives, to ensure that care is provided as soon as they arrive in a new area.

There are currently 152 different systems of social care in England, covering every local authority area.

Councils will still have the right to reassess new arrivals in their area. But they will be expected to assess someone before they move and to give a written explanation if the assessment differs from the judgment of the individual’s previous authority.

Lansley said: “No one should fear moving house or areas because they are worried that they will lose out on vital care and support. By bringing in measures to ensure continuity of care when people move, they will no longer feel trapped.

“We know the current system of eligibility is confusing and unclear. By introducing a minimum eligibility threshold, people will have a much clearer picture of what to expect and not see access to care vary depending on where they live.”

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