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The Right to Buy – A Solution to Funding Care of Older People?

October 8, 2017 8:03 AM
By Steve Spear in Liberal Democrat Voice

What do people who need to enter residential care fear most? Losing the home they have worked for the best part of their lives? Separation from their spouse they have shared a bed with for decades? Going to a place where they know they are going to die?

At a time when a person is at their most vulnerable we force them away from their families and potentially destroy their treasured legacy for their children and grandchildren. So let's be clear, caring for the elderly and keeping them safe as they become frail is more than just a financial crisis, but the solution to both is in how we construct the care budget.

70% of residential social care, and 50% of residential nursing care, is taken up by accommodation and hotel costs. We insist on including these costs in the "care" budget, forcing people to sell their homes to fund this forced move into rental accommodation. It is no accident that many care providers are housing organisations. If the person was being cared for in their family home then these non-care costs would be met, without question, by the individual.

So here is my suggestion. We should make the individual responsible for their accommodation costs and let the state deal with the care. If the person is in rented accommodation and receiving housing benefit then continue this arrangement. If the individual owns their home give them the "right to buy" their care accommodation.

This, in a single move, would bring some of the country's "wealth" to bear in solving the funding of residential care and would allow the individual to retain their capital asset to pass onto to their children. As in any market with choice, it will also improve the quality of the accommodation, including expanding the number of units that can take couples.

I have included both nursing and social care because I do believe that it is a nonsense that for those who win the lottery of gaining nursing care, they receive free accommodation and food as well as the care. I am sure that the electorate would be more than happy to pay the non-care costs in the case of residential nursing care as long as the care costs of residential social care then becomes a service free to all.

It's worth mentioning that as well as unlocking the housing wealth of the boomers this would also unlock family homes for the younger families following them.

* Following a career in the Royal Navy Steve has worked at a senior level within health, local government, criminal justice and voluntary sectors. Wilts County Councillor (1989) and NW Leicestershire District Councillor (1995)