Frontlines – Funding older people’s care

I sometimes wonder if the Wanless recommendations will come in time to protect my inheritance, or if it will be whittled away by means-testing.

My parents’ generation was the first in which ordinary people could afford to own their own homes. After the war came the Labour landslide victory and the welfare state, followed in the 1950s by a return to the Tories, Harold Macmillan’s “You’ve never had it so good” speech and a building boom. Some of my earliest memories are of bombsites being cleared and cranes dominating city skylines, much as they do today but then it was about building homes, now it’s about investment.

And of course there was the baby boom. That’s where my generation, who are now the generation of policy-makers, comes in.

The baby boomers will be the first to benefit from their parents’ homes. That new house bought by the parents in the 1950s for £2,000 is now worth £200,000. That house they scrimped,  saved, borrowed and worked 12-hour shifts for.

But as things stand at the moment the house may need to be sold to meet care costs. This may change with the Wanless proposals.

Who will really benefit? Not the older person in residential care, who doesn’t now have a need for the house. It is the next generation who will benefit. They will inherit their parents’ now  valuable property, and when their own time comes to go into care, will not have to sell their own house.

Predicted demographic changes over the next 20 years show a 66 per cent increase of people 85 or older. There will also be a 50 per cent increase of people with high care needs. Investment may need to increase threefold to £31.3bn to cover this. Sir Derek Wanless recommends that the state meets most of this, but there would still be a need for older people to contribute up to a third of the cost of their care.

This may be a relief to the diminishing number of younger people who will be working in 20 years’ time, and paying taxes. As the cranes blight our skylines again, building properties that only middle-aged investors can afford, baby boomers should spare a thought for the next generation. Young people need homes too.

Jennifer Harvey is a day services co-ordinator working with people with learning difficulties

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