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Phil Wickenden: Making a stand on long-term care

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It is funny what people are prepared to make a stand for. Actually, it is not when it is Jeremy Clarkson over life-extending cancer drugs. A woman has been trying to get the 100,000 signatures she is hoping will lead to a Parliamentary debate to reinstate Regorafenib, a cancer drug that could extend her boyfriend’s life considerably. At the time of writing, 45,000 signatures have been secured.

In contrast, Jeremy Clarkson being suspended for (allegedly) punching a producer has meant half a million people signing an online petition to get him re-instated. Unfortunately, human nature often dictates it is not necessarily the important things that inspire action. Or perhaps it is just our sense of what is important that has become a bit skewed: Top Gear versus life? Hmm.

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In today’s ageing population, paying for social care is a huge issue not just for the individuals and families affected but for society as a whole. As such, care funding should, of course, be factored into retirement planning. More advisers are recognising the importance of doing so. Of the 100 we recently interviewed, 70 per cent said long-term care is an issue that is very much on the planning agenda with clients at the moment (30 per cent of which said “significantly so”). But there is also great uncertainty over whether an individual will need care, particularly if trying to predict decades into the future, which gets in the way of translating those conversations into commitment to specific plans. For couples, the considerations are even more complex as one partner may take on the carer role for another.

More broadly, the whole shape of social care 30 years into the future could be hugely different from today. Medical advances could completely transform life expectancies, health status at advanced ages, available treatments and associated costs. And of course, who knows if future governments will retain the rules being put in place next year. It is against this backdrop of uncertainty that three fifths of advisers (60 per cent) plan to be more active. However, there is a difference between “planning to be” and actual planning. Tellingly, only 28 per cent of those advisers “planning to be more active” in long-term care have actually put a specific plan in place to make it happen, while nearly two fifths (39 per cent) admit to “not getting that far yet”. We do not know what proportion of these advisers signed the Clarkson petition.

Phil Wickenden is managing director of So Here’s The Plan

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