Fewer than one in four homeowners are saving for their future care needs, despite more than half fearing they could lose their homes to pay for care in later life, research shows.
A survey commissioned by the Independent Age charity found more than 143,000 older people – more than one-third of the 421,000 currently in residential care – are likely to face costs of £100,000 or more to pay for their care.
In recent years, the government has proposed introducing a cap to prevent people from having to pay such amounts. However, separate research by Grant Thornton UK, also commissioned by Independent Age, has revealed a cap would fail the majority of older people in care homes.
Instead, the charity has called on the government to introduce free personal care for everyone.
“Simply put, no one would pay for their care, avoiding up to hundreds of thousands in charges,” George McNamara, the director of policy and influencing at Independent Age, told the Guardian. “Free personal care could be introduced at a similar cost to the government to a cap on care costs.”
He claimed this would remove the unfairness in the health and social care systems, whereby someone who has a long-term health condition like cancer gets all of their treatment for free, while someone who develops dementia will be subject to a means test and may end up spending huge amounts on care for the remainder of their life.
The research shows that if the proposed cap were set too high, many older people in residential care would not live long enough to reach it – the average length of stay in a care home is 22 months.
In addition, most of the proposed caps take no account of “hotel costs” – the non-care related costs of being in care, including food and lodging, which can exceed £100,000 for a lengthy stay in a care home.
However, Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, said a cap on care costs would only help a small minority of older people.
“Free personal care sounds great and there are some suggestions it would cost little more than a cap, but we’re not currently convinced it’s really as good as it looks,” she stated. “It would not, for example, help tackle the chronic labour shortage, nor in and of itself improve the quality and sustainability of the care on offer.”