Minister pleads with Treasury to 'get on with' elderly care reform amid calls to cut fuel bill help for 80% of pensioners
Care minister Norman Lamb tells MailOnline the issue of how to fund care for ageing population must be removed from the 'long grass
Think tank report by ex-minister Paul Burstow calls for 10million pensioners to lose winter fuel allowance to pay for cap on care bills
But campaigners say it would penalise those who saved for their old age
there were 2.06million people claiming
a report for the Centre Forum think tank, Mr Burstow suggested limited
the winter fuel allowance to those people claiming Pension Credit. 'Over
10 million people would lose this benefit, leading to savings to the
Treasury that would exceed 1.5 billion annually,' he said.
said the money could be used to fund elderly care reforms. He suggested
setting the cap on paying for elderly care at 60,000, higher than the
35,000 proposed by Dilnot.
Mr Burstow warned that at a time of austerity public money had to be directed at those most in need: ‘We’re talking, for example, of pensioners, 100,000 in this country, who still have incomes over 100,000 a year.
‘Can it be right, when we’re taking away universal benefits such as child benefit to continue to pay a winter fuel allowance to that group of people, many of whom themselves say they don’t use it for winter fuel payments, they say they use it for other things’
He said there needed to be a ‘trade-off’ between universal benefits for the elderly and the need to fund a new system of social care.
Ros Altmann, director general of Saga, warned cutting the winter fuel allowance for most pensioners would penalise those who had saved for retirement
Capping care bills at 60,000 and lifting the amount of savings people can have from 23,250 to 100,000 would cost about 8.4 billion in the life of the next Parliament, he said.
‘We can meet that by having a trade off, between those currently receiving the winter fuel allowance and not receiving it in the future but actually that being targeted on the poorest and the savings being used to ensure the frail, those who have dementia, those that are disabled, can have the peace of mind of knowing they don't face those catastrophic care costs.’
‘It has been the tactic for decades when it comes to reforming issues around how we end this lottery, this misery, that families face when it comes to paying for care costs.
‘I think this is one of the legacy issues this coalition can be seen to have resolved during its lifetime.’
However, it was claimed the idea of limiting winter fuel allowance to the poorest pensioners would discriminate against people who had saved for their retirement.
Dr Ros Altmann, director general of Saga said: 'The reason we have all Winter Fuel Payments is because our basic state pension is so low – one of the lowest in the developed world.
'Of course, in theory, it makes little sense to pay money to wealthy pensioners who do not really need it, but then will the next step be to say that these pensioners don't need the rest of their state pension either Taxing these payments would raise some money, but means testing would be a disaster.’
Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said: 'It’s a shame that someone didn’t buy Mr Burstow a calculator for Christmas – because if they had he would have realised that his plan just doesn’t add up.
'Introducing a means-tested system will create a costly and inefficient bureaucracy which evidence shows will result in those who need it most failing to come forward to make a claim.'
Labour's shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne said: 'The Government is completely out of touch with the immediate care crisis. Instead of sticking their heads in the sand they should engage in serious cross-party talks so we can get a proper agreement across all the political parties about how we fund long term care in future.'