Ahead of the Queen’s speech tomorrow, the UK’s leading dementia charity is warning Prime Minister Theresa May that the ‘dementia tax’ must be tackled, as public outrage and fear over the state of social care refuses to abate.
In a YouGov poll carried out on Tuesday 14 June (1), social care came out above both education and crime when the public were questioned on the UK’s most pressing issues.
The election campaign has served to increase people’s fears and worries over the terrifying financial consequences of developing dementia. Worry about not being able to pass on anything to loved ones, because it would all be swallowed up by dementia care bills, has jumped 19 percentage points following the election campaign. 60% people now worry that any savings they have will be spent on care and support, leaving nothing to pass on to their loved ones, whereas 40% had this concern in January this year (2).
People who develop dementia in the current system on average lose £100,000 over their lifetime as they’re forced to fund their own care, in contrast to people with heart disease, cancer or diabetes, who receive care for free from the NHS.
Despite clear public anger over the current situation, there is still confusion over the true scale of the ‘dementia tax’. The conservative proposals to include someone’s home as an asset when paying for home care led to outrage, yet homes are already used to pay for residential care – which the majority of people with dementia end up needing. Despite this, the poll reveals over half (56%) people questioned aren’t aware they are already at risk of losing their home to pay for social care if they develop dementia. When they found out they are already at risk of losing their home to pay for dementia care, 63% people were angry, frightened or worried at the prospect
If the Government does not now address social care, nearly three quarters (72%) of people would feel worried, angry or frightened. This only dropped by two percentage points among people who voted Conservative on June 8th.
Alzheimer’s Society’s Chief Executive Jeremy Hughes has written to the Prime Minister calling for an urgent meeting to outline what is needed to stop the hundreds and thousands of vulnerable people with dementia and their families across the UK from spending everything they own to pay for essential care. The charity is urging the Government to show leadership in addressing public outcry and cross-party concern at the injustice that leaves people with dementia unsupported.
Since the Conservative manifesto proposals were announced people affected by dementia have been calling on Alzheimer’s Society to ensure the Government ends the injustice of dementia care. One person affected by dementia branded the current situation a ‘miserable lottery’, while another urged the charity to “tell the Government dementia is a disease, it is not a lifestyle choice.” A third said they felt their husband had first been mugged by dementia, and ‘is now being mugged by the Government.’ They argued ‘if he had cancer, his care would be funded. It is grossly unfair.’ A fourth called the strain ‘enormous’, saying ‘the day to day wear and tear of caring for a spouse with dementia is bad enough, but to have the dreadful worry of meeting the heavy bills as well is just too much’.
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “In the lottery of life, people with dementia remain the principal victims, forced to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on care — unlike those who develop cancer, heart disease or diabetes.
“Public outcry means the Government simply cannot pass up this opportunity to address this injustice and create a care system that is equitable for people with dementia, and fit for the future. The outrage and anger amongst the electorate is not abating, and makes kicking this issue into the long grass impossible.
“The debate around social care reform has been far too narrow and restricted to the confines of party politics. Instead the Government must consider innovative, yet workable long term approaches which recognise the true cost of dementia care. Then we’ll finally be on the right road to end the dementia tax.”
In the longer term, the charity seeks for society to unite against dementia, and for the Government to put in place a system to share the risk of dementia care costs across society, and end the dementia tax once and for all.
Alzheimer’s Society is calling on the public to sign their petition demanding that the UK Government creates a better, fairer system of care for people with dementia, at alzheimers.org.uk/fixdementiacare