Welsh Conservatives offer new deal for older people

Welsh Conservatives will today set out their manifesto commitment to ensure that older people in Wales can live their lives with dignity and security.

Key to achieving this aim will be the prioritisation of support for those entering residential care. Age UK has labelled paying for care as “one of the biggest financial decisions” an individual will make in their life.

Currently, individuals with assets over £24,000 – including their property’s value – are required to fund their own care until their assets are reduced to this figure. This means that taxpayers across Wales see a lifetime of savings and assets spent on care costs.

A Welsh Conservative government will protect people’s finances by increasing the threshold to £100,000, which would instil security and fairness into the system.

Based on estimates in 2013, the number of supported individuals would increase from 13,700 to 15,400 if this policy was put into practice.

Moreover, to end what has for many become a postcode lottery – with the cost of care varying significantly across the country – Welsh Conservatives would cap weekly residential and nursing care costs at £400 – this compared to the current average weekly fee of £513.

As part of this reform, Welsh Conservatives will also cut reliance on residential care by introducing Stay at Home Assessments for those reaching pensionable age. This would support people to live in their own home longer, encouraging more independent living while saving public money.

Darren Millar, a Welsh Conservative health spokesperson and an Assembly Member candidate for Clwyd West, said:

“Too many older people see a life's hard-work spent on care costs. It’s deeply unfair, and a scandal that’s been ignored by the Welsh Labour Government for far too long.

“A Welsh Conservative Government would prioritise support for those entering residential care. We’d protect capital assets of up to £100,000 – quadrupling the current threshold – and we’d allow people to plan for their future with certainty as to their anticipated care costs, setting a maximum weekly cap of £400 for residential and nursing care.

“Our vision is for a nation which offers our older people dignity and security. Only Welsh Conservatives will deliver fairness to the social system, for which taxpayers have worked their whole lives.”

Mark Isherwood, a Welsh Conservative Assembly Member candidate for the North Wales region, said:

“The measure of a society is how it treats its citizens in old age. But under the current system, people are not being treated fairly and upon entering old age, they are confronted with the uncertainty of inconsistent care home costs and the prospect of losing their life savings. This has to stop.

“Welsh Conservatives will allow people to plan for old age with more certainty, allowing them to keep more of the money and assets they’ve accumulated through a lifetime of hard work.

“A Welsh Conservative government will acknowledge the vital contribution of older people to society and will reward them with the security and dignity they deserve.”

A Welsh Conservative Government will also:

–        Designate a minister to assume responsibility for representing older people across all government departments.

–        Introduce a Older People’s Rights Bill, to extend and promote the rights of older people and introduce a duty on public sector bodies to consult older people when making decisions which affect their lives.

–        Review and extend the powers of the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales and make the role accountable to the National Assembly rather than the Welsh Government.

–        Work with partners to tackle disruptive cold-calling to protect older people.

–        Recognise the contribution of older people to Wales with free bus travel, subsidised rail fares and free prescriptions.

–        Run annual national awareness campaigns against elder abuse, age discrimination and fall prevention.

–        End age discrimination in work programmes funded by the Welsh Government. Invest in health screening programmes and introduce hearing tests at pension age.

–        Promote independent living and planning for future need by offering voluntary Stay at Home Assessments for those reaching pension age.

–        Empower older people to make choices about their own care by extending and promoting the use of personal budgets and direct payments.

–        Extend the role of sheltered housing wardens to cover eligible older people who have chosen to stay in their own homes.

–        Consult on how to recognise the contribution of grandparents in the provision of childcare for family members.

–        Work with the third sector to establish a National Advocacy Service for Older People.

–        Introduce audio and text announcements on public transport.

–        Increase funding for befriending services to tackle loneliness and isolation amongst older people.

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