RESPONSE TO SUNDAY EXPRESS FROM No.10 We were the instigators of the Sunday Express Crusade ‘JUSTICE FOR OUR ELDERLY’. Below is a transcript of Blair's letter in response to the 20,000 letters sent to the Sunday Express. Comment on Blair's letter by Lord Bruce Lockhart (Chairman of the Local Government Association) 'PM not only misleading but wrong'. 10 Downing Street. Dear Sunday Express Readers, Thank you for your petition over the cost of care for the elderly. Let me start by saying I fully agree that we as a society owe the older generation a huge debt. It is why this government is spending £10billion more in real terms on the elderly than in 1997. We have more to do but I am proud that we have helped lift hundreds of thousands of pensioners out of poverty. I also accept there has been much confusion over the cost of residential care. It is a complex area and much of the confusion rests on the different elements of these costs, in particular the difference between medical, nursing care and personal and social care. This government has tries hard to make fairer the complicated system we inherited. Medical care - diagnosis and treatment form doctors - has been free at the point of delivery for all patients whether old or young, ever since the creation of the National Health Service. Nursing care, however, has not. When this government came to power was that older patients in hospital received free nursing care while many residents in care homes did not. Nursing care costs were only met for them by their local authority after means testing. This was unfair and we changed it. Since 2003, the costs of all nursing care, including those in residential homes, have been met by the NHS. This leaves personal care, which for instance would cover washing, dressing and the cooking of meals and the cost of accommodation. This has never been provided free fro everyone - those who can afford to pay towards the cost have always been asked to do so. In fact the National assistance Act 1948 sets out the framework within which Local Authorities decide what people can contribute towards the cost of their care, based on assets and income. This includes any property they own. The present position is that assets below £12,750 are ignored in calculations on payment towards personal care while those with assets of between £12,750 and £21,000 will be asked to make a contribution. Anyone with assets above £21,000 will pay all the non-nursing costs of their care. In some cases, this has led to the sale of homes to meet these costs. However the government accepted that being forced to sell a family home, even if empty, was likely to cause distress to older people so we have introduced the deferred payment scheme, under which Councils can now meet this cost and claim the money back from the estate when the house is eventually sold. According to independent social care analysts, two-thirds of the total cost of residential care is funded by Local Council Social Services or NHS-funded nursing care. I know that there are some people who believe that the entire cost of residential care for all older residents should be met by the taxpayer. But while those who stand to inherit their parents' home or assets, for example, would benefit, the tax payer as a whole would have to find an extra £1,500 million a year - a bill which, with an increasingly ageing population, will only rise. The money would also have to be found without providing a single extra service for the older generation or improving the quality of existing services. Thank you again for letting me know your views. Yours sincerely, Tony Blair. RESPONSE TO ANOTHER PETITION FROM No.10 19 March 2007 We received a petition asking: "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to provide 'free' health and social care for older people." Details of petition: "The North East Pensioners Association are calling for the government to put an end to older people having to sell their homes to pay for care in later life when they have contributed via national insurance and income tax all of their lives." THE GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE The Government values the contribution that older people have made and continue to make to our society, and recognises the efforts older people have made to prepare for their old age through pension provision, through savings and through investment in their homes. However, charging for residential accommodation is not new. Since the introduction of the 1948 National Assistance Act people have had to contribute towards the cost of their care, and capital assets have always been taken into account. Under the current assessment rules, all forms of capital, including a person's former home, will be looked at when deciding how much capital a resident has. However, the local council must ignore the value of the property where it continues to be occupied by the resident's spouse or partner, another relative who is over 60 or incapacitated, or the parent resident of a child under 16 whom he/she is liable to maintain. Property is now disregarded from the means test for residential accommodation for the first 12 weeks of a permanent move into a care home. This change took effect from April 2001, and has three direct benefits. It provides breathing space between entering a care home and having to sell the family home to pay for care; it gives time for residents to assess the move into a care home; and it means savings on care home costs for residents. From 10 April 2006, under the local authority charging rules no account is taken of capital below £12,750. For capital of between £12,750 and £21,000, an income of £1 a week is assumed for each complete £250, or part of £250, held. A person with capital over £21,000 is expected to pay the full charge for their accommodation. As soon as the person's capital reduces to £21,000 they should contact the social services department and ask for an assessment or reassessment, as they may then be entitled to financial support. Once a person has been assessed as needing residential or nursing care, it is the responsibility of the local authority to find a suitable placement. The local authority will either provide a place in one of their own homes or contract with an independent sector home owner. In these circumstances the local authority is responsible for meeting the contracted cost of the home in full and will recover from the resident such amount as the resident can afford to pay according to their means. It is not the responsibility of the person concerned or their family to find a place. However, where a resident wishes to enter residential accommodation which is more expensive than the authority would normally pay for the level of care provided, they may do so if someone else, such as a relative or friend of the resident, agrees to make up the difference. A resident may also top-up from their own resources if they and the local authority have made a deferred payments agreement or the resident is subject to the 12-week property disregard. These rules do not mean that local authorities can set arbitrary ceilings on the amount that they will pay. The local authority cannot simply say that it will only pay a certain amount, without being able to show where it could arrange a place at the price which also suits a person's assessed needs. If, for example, a resident believes they have particular needs which would not be met in the accommodation offered, they, or someone acting on their behalf, may wish to use the complaints procedure to argue that the local authority should pay more than its normal level to meet these needs. The Government has also provided councils with a special grant to enable them to place charges on people's homes as an alternative means of contributing to their care costs. The charge can remain in place until the property is sold or the resident dies. If the resident or their family decide they wish to repay the charge earlier, they will be able to do so. This is known as the deferred payments scheme. A charge on their property gives residents another option for paying for their care. In addition, families will be able to explore options other than the sale of the home in order to repay the debt accrued. The deferred payments scheme, along with the introduction of the 12-week disregard, will help alleviate the concern, uncertainty and distress which many families face when their loved ones go into care. People should no longer feel pressured into hasty home sales, as these policies will give residents, carers and families more time to decide how to deal with a property and make the necessary arrangements should they decide they wish to sell their home. Don't Forget the current Petition http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Continuing-Care/ Kind Regards, Stephen (Johnson).