The ‘catastrophic’ £56,000 threat to your family wealth our politicians REFUSE to discuss | Personal Finance | Finance

The UK’s social care system is an unholy mess. Funding is scarce, workers are paid too little, choosing a nursing home is a bewildering maze and the financial burden falls on families.

Nursing and residential home care costs a small fortune and keeps getting more expensive, with fees rocketing 49 percent in a decade to an average of £56,056 a year, according to Laing & Buisson. That is a frankly staggering sum.

It’s no surprise that around 40,000 family homes are sold every year to meet care fees, ravaging inheritances. Nobody knows whether their family will be next.

The burden can only rise as the population ages, the state gets poorer, and dementia and Alzheimer’s cases multiply. No wonder politicians don’t want to go near it.

They also remember what happened to former Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May in the 2017 election. She suggested that people would have to pay for social from their own pockets until the value of their assets – including their home – reached a floor of £100,000.

May also promised that a family home would never need to be sold in a person’s lifetime, with costs recouped after death instead.

The plans were shot own as a heartless “dementia tax”. Theresa May’s reputation was sunk.

In 2021, Boris Johnson reluctantly gave it another go.

His flagship reform involved a new cap of £86,000 on the amount anyone in England would need to spend on personal care over their lifetime (although they’d have to meet other costs).

The reforms were due to come into force in October 2023. There were delayed until October 2025, then abandoned altogether

Today, nothing has changed. Long-term care residents must pay their own fees in full – known as self–funding – until the value of their total assets (including their home) falls before £23,250 in England and £50,000 in Wales. Even then they must contribute from means-tested income.

Worse, these limits haven’t changed in years, and would be more than 50 per cent higher if they had kept pace with inflation.

With the election less than four weeks away, only the Liberal Democrats have announced their social care policy but they won’t win power so frankly who cares. We’re now waiting to see what the Tories and Labour will say in their manifestos, if anything.

Politicians need to talk about social care and cannot “keep kicking the can down the road”, said Helen Morrissey, head of retirement analysis, Hargreaves Lansdown. “Care costs are financially catastrophic for families and make it impossible for any of us to plan retirement spending with any real certainty.”

New research from retirement specialist Just Group shows that almost two thirds of over-75s are delaying making desperately needed financial plans for social care until they know what the new system is going to be.

Stephen Lowe, group communications director at Just, said this paralysis shows “the devastating impact of 25 years of incoherent social care policy”. “Continued debate, dither and delay has created confusion and uncertainty.”

The system is complex and many have no idea what their local authority will pay, and what they must pay themselves.

Lowe would like to take the political sting out of reforming social care, since no solution will please everybody. “For decades, we have been beating the drum to encourage long-term, cross-party development to support the creaking social care system.”

So far, nobody has listened.

Lisa Morgan, partner in the nursing care fee recovery team at Hugh James Solicitors, said failing to address the issues will affect everyone at some point, “whether you need it yourself or a loved one does”.

Kate Smith, head of pensions at Aegon, said politicinas cannot just leave social care in the “too difficult” box. “With 3.5million people over 65 now living alone, an increase of 420,000 in the last decade, government must plan for the wave of social care demand that’s coming our way.”

Smith is not too optimistic, though. “Nobody will be surprised if despite all the noise around the General Election, there is a deafening silence on social care.”

Politicians are running scared. None of them want to end up like Theresa May.

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