Anyone following news about social care this week may well have reached Friday in a decidedly dour mood. Last week we focussed on the budget and proposals to allow people to access their pensions more freely without the obligation to buy an annuity. While it’s positive that this affords people greater freedom and choice with how they access their money, last weekend, both the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Age UK were quick to warn that people who cash in their pensions in order to save or invest the money risk losing their right to free social care.
Currently, money held in pension schemes is not counted as an asset when calculations are made about how much someone has to contribute to their care costs. But if the money is taken out of a pension and held as savings, or put in another investment, it would be counted. From 2016, those with assets of less than £118,000, will have all their care costs paid. Someone who takes out a large sum from their pension, taking them over the limits, would be eligible for care costs.
Also this week, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation, laid bare what many with an interest in social care have been saying for years: that the social care system is in crisis. Their report revealed that since 2009/10, 250,000 older people have lost vital care and support to carry out basic everyday activities, such as bathing, dressing and eating. This is deeply worrying and suggests that as the ageing population grows, more and more will have to reach crisis point before they are entitled to local authority support. This is bad news for older people, and bad news for the economy as this will surely only drive more people to visit their GP or A&E, which ultimately, is more expensive than supporting people to remain independent in their own homes.