Free care: ‘Older people must not be pushed into homes’

Merged charity Age Concern and Help the Aged has warned that the government’s proposed introduction of free personal care at home for older people with high needs should not result in service users being pushed into care homes.

Under the proposal announced in Gordon Brown’s Labour conference speech, pensioners with critical needs – many of whom would be on the verge of entering residential care – would receive free personal care at home. Residential care would remain fully means-tested, excluding people with assets of more than £23,000 from state-funded support.

Andrew Harrop, head of policy at Age Concern and Help the Aged, welcomed the plan, saying it would be a “great relief” for families who were struggling to meet care bills.

But he added: “It will be essential that councils are properly funded to provide this care so that there is not an incentive for them to push older people into care homes or claim that their needs are not critical enough to warrant free care at home.”

Alzheiemer’s Society chief executive Neil Hunt said the proposal sounded like a “promising development” but said more detail was needed.

And both Harrop and Hunt called for action to improve standards of care, alongside reforms to funding.

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