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New ‘national minimum’ could lower standard of elderly care

The Department of Health has published a set of draft rules designed to introduce a ‘national minimum’ level at which people will qualify for care. The new structure will replace the current system with four specific bands, ranging from ‘low’ to ‘critical’, and is intended to avoid the postcode lottery associated with standards of care across the country.

However, there are concerns from both officials and elderly care charities that these new guidelines could end up excluding individuals who already qualify for this type of assistance – particularly in the instances of elderly and disabled people. Care minister Norman Lamb has confirmed that the cut-off point would be similar to the current ‘substantial’ banding, but Michelle Mitchell, the director general of Age UK, responded: “We believe the equivalent of ‘substantial’ sets the bar too high: ‘moderate’ would be much more in tune with the spirit of the Government’s new care legislation, and with what the public has been led to expect.”

Estimates suggest that around 135,000 elderly and disabled people who rely on state funded ecare on ‘moderate’ or ‘low’ needs would be at risk of losing their support under the new system.

“The final decision about these care criteria is crucial: as it stands, millions of older people and their families who have assumed they will benefit from the Government’s social care reforms will miss out,” Ms Mitchell concluded.