I wish I had a pound for every time that someone has come to one of my advice surgeries over the past 16 years with a complaint about the fact that they or someone in their family were worried about having to sell their house in order to pay for the cost of care in old age.
Inevitably because West Dorset is a nice place to live, plenty of people come here to retire – and, when you add the number of people who do that to the number of people who retire after working here, the proportion of the population who are concerned about the possibility of high costs of care in old age begins to be quite considerable.
Up until now, people have also felt that there was an unfairness in the system – because those who have spent whatever money they have earned have not accumulated more than £23,250 over their lifetimes have their care costs met by the taxpayer, whereas those who have assets or savings above that level (many of whom have worked hard, lived on modest incomes and saved hard, are faced with meeting what could be (for roughly one in ten) more than £100,000 of care costs.
This is, of course, why successive governments have wrestled with the issue of care costs – and it is a matter of personal pleasure to me that we are now going to legislate to change the situation.
The first change is that, under the new rules, people will not be expected to meet their own costs of care if their assets are under £123,000 – a massive hike from the £23,000 limit that applies at the moment. So people with significant but relatively modest assets will be fully protected against having to meet care costs.
The second change is that, for those who do have to meet their care costs, these will be capped at £75,000 and the taxpayer will take on any obligation above that. As a result, a relatively cheap insurance market should now develop, enabling people to insure themselves entirely against care costs by adding a small amount each week to the cost of their pension contribution or household insurance or mortgage payment.
So even people who own mid sized and larger homes in West Dorset should be able to avoid selling those homes to meet the cost of care.
I hope that, once the new legislation is in place and has been implemented in 2017, I will no longer have to attempt to explain to constituents the inexplicable fact that their home may be at risk if they have to go into care for a long time.