NEW rules over who pays for care in later life could see a regional care budget spread thinly, it has been warned.
The Care Act 2014 – which became law this week – means that from 2016, people who fund their own elderly social care will have the cost capped at £72,000 in their lifetime.
But anyone whose care costs exceed this amount will have their care paid for by the local authority – which in Oxfordshire is the county council.
The leader of the county council has expressed concern about the impact new legislation could have on his authority’s budget.
But Sheila Medlin, whose 100-year-old mother Edith Murray has a council-funded place in Langford View care home in Bicester, welcomed the legislation.
She said: “We couldn’t have afforded paying for a care home ourselves without selling our home.
“I don’t think any of us want to go into a care home but my husband is disabled and something is going to happen in the not too distant future regarding his needs.”
The cap will only apply to those who fund their own care entirely, and only to the cost of care, not the cost of accommodation.
Anyone who has capital assets exceeding £23,250 or who does not want to disclose their financial circumstances will normally be expected to pay for the full cost of their care.
Ian Hudspeth, the council’s leader, said: “It is one of those situations where we may have additional pressures coming on to our budget because we have got a very elderly population in Oxfordshire.
“We are all living longer and the cap will be approached quicker. The fact that Oxfordshire has a large proportion of self-funders is going to be a challenge for us because we will have to find the funding ourselves.”
The county council’s adult social care department has already been hit by funding cuts from central government, with £7m taken out of its budget in this financial year.
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “There are some positive steps forward in the Act, but there is a real danger that the cap on care costs will not benefit nearly as many people as the Government promised.
“I share the county council’s concerns that Government cuts in their allocated care budget will make it very difficult for them to meet rising need.”
The cap only applies to “self-funders”, or those who pay to go into a care home themselves rather than use a council-funded one.
In Oxfordshire, there are around 4,000 beds in the independently-run care home and nursing home sector of which just 40 per cent are occupied by council-funded residents.
George Tuthill, chairman of Oxfordshire Care Home Association and managing partner of Wardington House care home in Banbury, estimated that staying in an Oxfordshire care home for a week costs an average of £900.
He said people stay in a care home for two years on average, leading to costs of more than £90,000.
Mr Tuthill added said: “The principal of the act is very sound but we don’t know the full details of how the cap is going to be split between the care costs and the accommodation costs.
“There is a lot that is not clear.”
Council spokesman Marcus Mabberley said: “This work is under way to understand what the possible implications may be, however it’s an ongoing process, which involves a lot of detail, and will take some time.”
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