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Who will take care of the cash?

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has set out plans for free personal care for the elderly through the creation of a national care service.

At the Labour conference, he pledged to bring together the National Health Service and local care provision to form the body, which will entitle elderly people “with the highest needs” to get free care and remove means-testing for families funding care for family members.

Symponia joint founder and managing director Janet Davies says Labour’s attention to long-term care is a good thing but could be nothing more than a vote-winning tactic.

She says: “It is important not to forget that everything said at this round of conferences will be vitally important in the coming months. Anything uttered about long-term care, which is and always will be a political hot potato, could be a potential vote-winner and all parties know this.

“Any specific LTC comments made by any party from now and in the lead up to the general election could just turn out to be rhetoric and hot air.”

Bupa’s UK care homes director Alistair How says it is good to see social care getting this attention as long as it translates into action. He says: “Everyone agrees that social care is under-funded but the green paper does not promise the billions more that are needed, it just looks at the sources of funding.”

If Labour stays in power, Davies says it would be at least 2014 before changes are made. She says: “Five years is a long time, especially if you are one of the people needing care in the meantime.”

Bank House Communications managing director and author of the Healthcare Insurance Report Andy Couchman says the plans were mooted in the recent Government green paper but believes it is unlikely that a national care service will be introduced any time soon.

He says: “To some extent, we saw this flagged up in the recent green paper and the idea of a NCS is a great concept but my fear is that it is going to be very complex to achieve because of all the different organisations that are going to have to be involved.

“I can see it taking a long time to roll out and I can see it being very inefficient and expensive. I can foresee major obstacles in getting it out and on to the streets.”

“Advisers must start to at least ask the questions, and when they do they will find that more and more of their clients will want to gain real peace of mind about their future plans.”

Janet Davies, Symponia

The Association of British Insurers has concerns over the funding of a national care service and suggests that a partnership between the state and the private sector is the best and most cost-effective way of delivering care to the elderly.

Davies considers there are fundamental problems with funding Brown’s proposals.

She says: “We know that the basic entitlement will cover care but no mention has been made of accommodation and other associated costs.

“On paper, Labour’s intention to abolish means-testing is a good thing but dig a little deeper and what becomes more obvious is that this could be seen as a stealth approach and a way of altering who pays what for whom. How will this be funded?”

How warns that many people will be alarmed to discover that costs such as board and lodging in care homes are not covered by the proposals “and that is a big part of the bill”.

He adds: “What we need to see in future is a simpler, more transparent system with less red tape and a consistent, nationally-set assessment of people’s needs.

“Older people should have a guaranteed level of core care so they can choose to top up from this as they see fit, either through savings or insurance.”

With the delivery and funding of the care plans uncertain, Couchman says now is the right time for IFAs to get their heads round long-term care.

He says: “The important thing for IFAs is to keep abreast as this develops. It is such a huge market and it is getting bigger every year. If I were an IFA, I would be looking to ensure I am able to take advantage of any opportunities that come along.”

Davies says IFAs can help in two ways. She says: “Those that work within this sector should continue but advisers that do not want to deal in long-term care should find a specialist local adviser rather than ignoring the subject.

“Advisers must start to at least ask the questions, and when they do they will find that more and more of their clients will want to gain real peace of mind about their future plans.”

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