FEW homeowners in Hampshire will be helped by a Government pledge to cap care home costs, it was claimed last night.
A long-awaited package to help meet social care bills – by limiting the lifetime amount anyone must pay to £75,000 from April 2017 – was widely criticised.
The £1 billion plans, revealed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday, will also significantly raise the assets below which patients can receive state help in meeting bills from £23,000 to £123,000.
However, even that higher threshold would appear to rule out any homeowner in Hampshire from help – because of sky-high house prices.
The average semi-detached home in Southampton is worth £196,188 and the average flat is valued at £131,848 – with higher prices outside the city.
A flat costs £146,992 in Eastleigh, at £168,849 in Test Valley and at £175,806 in New Forest, according to Land Registry figures.
Mr Hunt said the measures, to be introduced through the Care and Support Bill, would benefit around 100,000 people annually who would not receive support under the current system.
Certainty about the maximum bill they may face will allow everyone to buy insurance to protect them against the possibility of care costs.
While hailing the announcement, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, acknowledged that most homeowners in the south would still have to pay for their care, up to the £75,000 cap.
He said: “Almost everyone who doesn’t own their own home would get subsidised care along with those – in particular in the north – with the smallest homes.”
Meanwhile, Labour leapt on the £75,000 payment limit – more than twice the £35,000 recommended by an independent review in 2011– to warn that only a minority would be helped.
Liz Kendall, the party’s health spokeswoman, said the cap would not kick in until at least four years of fees had been paid – yet the average person spent only two years in residential care.
She added: “The vast majority of people in residential care homes would have passed away before that happens, if the cap is set at £75,000.”
According to the thinktank Demos, only 16 per cent of pensioners will be helped by a £75,000 cap compared with 37 per cent if the £35,000 figure had been adopted.
Many Tories were also furious with the announcement, because it will be partly funded by dragging more people into paying inheritance tax.
That threshold will be frozen at £325,000 until at least 2019 – or £650,000 for couples – despite a 2009 Conservative pledge to hike it to £1m.
However, the package will mean that no one will be forced to sell their home to go into care, as 40,000 people currently do every year.
That is because, from 2015, local authorities will be required to lend the money for care bills and recover it after death, from the property sale.
Many currently do not.