DIY old age gets a no vote

May 24, 1996

There is very little support for the idea that individuals should pay for their own care in old age, or that of their relatives, early results from a national survey of people's attitudes suggest.

The survey, carried out by Leicester University researchers, involved interviewing a nationally representative sample of 960 people aged between 25 and 70.

Depending on the nature of the help required, there is a broad consensus that the state should retain responsibility either for all older people or for those who could not afford to pay for themselves.

The issue of the cost of care in old age has shot up the political agenda in recent weeks with indications that the Government wants to move towards a system that encourages individual responsibility.

But Gillian Parker and Harriet Clarke of Leicester's Nuffield Community Care Studies Unit say their study, backed by the Economic and Social Research Council, shows that policy-makers hoping to slash the cost to Government of care need to tread carefully.

Ms Clarke says only a minority of those interviewed in the survey thought people should be expected to sell their homes to pay for care.

Only a tenth thought a couple should be forced to sell or borrow on a modest (Pounds 25,000) house for this purpose.

Less than one twentieth of the sample survey thought relatives should be obliged to contribute to the care of a parent or other elderly relation.

Ms Clarke says: "This pattern of attitudes implies that policy-makers face a dilemma.

"On the one hand costs of providing care are rising. On the other few people find the idea of individuals financing their own or their relatives' possible care needs acceptable."

About half of those interviewed supported a model for financing long-term care in which Government guarantees a basic level of services with those who can afford it adding to it if they choose to.

Just under 25 per cent said there ought to be a universal high-quality system financed by tax. Only 2 per cent of the sample said the state should have no responsibility for care of the old.

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