Saga says we cannot afford to leave reform of long term care to the long term
Leading charities and campaign groups have warned the Prime Minister that pensioners could face a life of "misery and fear" without proper care reform. And in an open letter to the Daily Mail, fears are raised that a postcode lottery of access to care is leaving many elderly people in "quiet desperation".
Charities are pleading with Mr Cameron to make social care reform his "personal mission", saying that there is widespread support "across society and the political spectrum". Under the current system, pensioners have to pay the cost of their own care if they have savings or assets worth more than £23,500. With so many falling below this threshold, inadequate care provision could provoke a crisis in the NHS, with increasing numbers of older people left vulnerable as limited health resources become overwhelmed.
Signed by Saga, Age UK and the Local Government Association, the letter comes ahead of this week's Queen's Speech, with some groups fearing the speech will not include a bill on social care.
The letter explains how "social care is in crisis - the system is chronically underfunded and in need of urgent reform. Without this, too many older and disabled people will be left in desperate circumstances: struggling on alone, living in misery.
"The system is a lottery - some of us will be lucky enough never to need care, but there are many of us who need support at some stage in our lives to carry out everyday tasks and could lose everything: our savings, our dignity, our independence.
"That is why we are calling on you (Mr Cameron) to take forward social care reform as your personal mission."
A white paper on long-term care will be published in June, but it will focus on the quality of care provision, with the issue of paying for it relegated to a "progress" document.
Saga director-general Ros Altmann says that with the number of people needing care growing rapidly, "we cannot afford to leave reform of long term care to the long term".
Dr Altmann explained: “We see first hand the problems faced by families struggling with the current postcode lottery in care, and the meanest of all means tests. The Government needs to move quickly.
“Older people and their families need to know what the our social care system will provide and how to access what they need, with a comprehensive reform to make the system fair and sustainable. Saga is pleading with the Prime Minister to show the vision and courage to make this a reality.
“If we fail on this issue, then the NHS itself will fail and that will damage all of us."