More than three-quarters of people (78%) across England support the introduction of free personal care for people aged 65+ who need it, and 74% would contribute more in some way to fund it, research by Independent Age has found.

The older people’s charity today published its report Homing in on free personal care, which shines a light on the experiences of older people having to sell their home to cover the cost of care. It was almost 20 years ago that a Royal Commission proposed making personal care free at the point of use. Since 2000, Independent Age estimates that more than 330,000 older people have had to sell their homes to pay for care costs including help with washing, getting dressed and going to the toilet.

Free personal care will significantly reduce the lifetime costs individuals face. Those receiving care at home would face no costs, while those in residential care would bear only the cost of board and lodging.

Independent Age is calling on the government to introduce free personal care for older people. The additional benefits would include:

• significantly reducing unmet care needs

• supporting more people to be cared for in their own home

• reducing pressures on the NHS

• providing much needed support to family carers

Additional research, carried out for the older people’s charity by YouGov, found that 68% of those aged 18-24 would support the introduction of free personal care, suggesting that the policy has broad cross-generational appeal.

In 2015, the Government’s answer to the situation of many older people having to sell their homes to pay for care was to introduce a scheme called Deferred Payment Agreements (DPAs), but Independent Age research suggests that there is a postcode lottery in arranging them. The Advice Team at Independent Age receives regular enquiries about deferred payments. The charity submitted a Freedom of Information Request to all 152 local authorities in England with responsibility for adult social care in July 2019. Of the 93 who responded:

• 7 local authorities had no DPAs in place

• 29 local authorities had accepted all of their applications

• 3 local authorities had not accepted any applications

While DPAs can prevent people having to sell their homes within their lifetime, this policy doesn’t tackle the heart of the problem which leaves people exposed to such vast financial costs, resulting in many of them having to sell their homes to pay for care.

Morgan Vine, Campaigns Manager at Independent Age, said: “Our findings show exactly why free personal care is so badly needed. Even arranging DPAs – a safety net to prevent people having to sell their homes within their lifetime – is proving to be a postcode lottery and doesn’t address the unacceptable situation where people are still required to spend a catastrophic amount on their care. “Our Prime Minister has announced his intention to fix the social care system, and it’s crucial that free personal care is part of that solution. Free personal care is an affordable option for the country and is popular with people of all generations.”

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