Hundreds of older people in Leeds 'wiped out financially' by social care bills
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Care groups hit out at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's failure to detail long-promised social care reforms in the recent Queen’s Speech, which could reportedly include a cap on costs – first proposed a decade ago – to avoid people having to sell their homes to pay for care.
Currently, anyone with assets or savings worth £23,250 or more has to pay the full cost of their care.
People with less than that, but more than £14,250, have to pay a contribution to care costs, while the council will cover the full bill if someone's capital falls below this threshold.
NHS Digital data shows that in Leeds around 220 people were classified as "self-funders with depleted funds" – those who had to fall back on council support after exhausting their assets paying for care – in the three years to March 31 2020.
Across England, some 14,600 over-65s requested local authority support for care costs over the same period after running down their savings and assets.
There were around 27,555 new requests for local authority support for people aged 65 and over in Leeds in 2019-20.
The Queen confirmed proposals for social care reform will be brought forward as she set out the Government’s legislative agenda on Tuesday (May 11), but no further detail was given.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said it was an important step forward despite the lack of a clear plan.
She said: "Ministers have made it clear that they see a cap on sky high care costs as the centrepiece of their reforms, because it is so evidently unfair for anyone to be financially ruined by long term care bills."
"However, this is not the only unfairness in how care operates today, and it would be a bizarre outcome if we gave more protection to homeowners, while leaving those with fewer assets to the current underfunded system.
"There is no avoiding the need for the Government to invest billions more into care - topping council budgets back up again after having allowed them to fall so disastrously over the last decade."
The NHS figures, which cover care organised through the local authority, show that social care costs for over-65s have risen in recent years in Leeds.
In 2019-20, the average weekly cost of a residential or nursing care place was £674 per person – £92 more than 2016-17 in real-terms.
That was slightly lower than the England average of £679.
Overall, the council in Leeds spent £119.2 million on care for older people in 2019-20, including income from people paying towards their own care, and other organisations.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman previously said: “Improving the adult social care system remains a priority for this government and we will bring forward proposals later this year to ensure everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
“Throughout the pandemic we have provided almost £1.8 billion in specific funding for adult social care including infection prevention and control measures."