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Different threshold eligibility for pensioners for social care to be removed

Date: (9 July 2012)    |    

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The present practice of councils having their own eligibility criteria for social care and in turn restricting free care to only to those deemed to be more in need is going to be done away with.
The different threshold being set in by councils has created 152 different systems across England and more than 80% of the local authorities are taking advantage of such loophole to limit free care like home helps, meals on wheels and the installation of stair lifts to a very few deemed the most in need.
A care and support white paper which is coming later this week would see ministers pledging to introduce a national minimum eligibility threshold for access to free care by 2015.
It will mean, for the first time, that the elderly will be able to expect the same standard of free help wherever they live. No decision has yet been taken on the level of the threshold.
Some 300,000 pensioners in the UK are in receipt of help from councils. They are categorized by the staff of the council whether their needs were deemed ‘critical’, ‘substantial’, ‘moderate’ or ‘low’, and town halls decided each year which groups were eligible for free help. Even then, councils usually pay for help only if people were having assets worth less than £23,250.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the present system of eligibility was confusing and unclear. By introducing a minimum eligibility threshold, people would have a much clearer picture of what to expect, and not see access to care differed on where they lived.
Research by Age UK has found that 82 per cent of English councils provide care only to those with ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ needs. Five authorities help only those whose needs are ‘critical’, meaning those whose lives would be at risk if care was withheld.
But some pensioners’ needs though are categorized as ‘low’ or ‘moderate’ they still could be disabled or housebound. If someone was in the moderate category may be found needing help to go to the lavatory, or with getting washed and dressed each day.
This leaves many of them having to spend savings on private care, while others end up in hospital or residential care because councils have abandoned them.
Critics say by restricting home care to those with only the highest needs, local authorities are denying many older people the help they need to live dignified lives.
Another change to the policy would be pensioner’s no longer care taken away when they move home to another council district while their eligibility is assessed again.
Mr Lansley added that pensioners should not fear moving house because they are worried they will lose out on vital care and support. By bringing in measures to ensure continuity of care, people will no longer feel trapped.
A document to be published alongside the white paper is to say the Coalition accepts in principle the proposals by last year’s Dilnot Commission, which recommended a cap placed on contributions to care costs, which currently have to be met in full by pensioners with assets worth more than £23,250.