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Joseph Bower, Care Manager of Martlets Care (whose profits support the Martlets Hospice), comments on the lack of insurers offering policies to those planning for their old age.

The BBC has recently revealed that there are no plans for any insurance products to help people plan ahead for their care needs in old age. This was one of the key aims underpinning the coalition’s decision to introduce a cap on care costs from next year. The Prime Minister David Cameron had said he hoped the plans would “open up an enormous market”, but the BBC reports that over a dozen major insurance firms thought there was not enough interest in such policies among the British public.

So why is it a big deal?

In England the cost of care will be capped from 2016. It will mean for the first time ever that there will be a limit on how much people pay for their care in their old age.

This covers the help people get in their own homes (from companies like Martlets Care), for tasks such as washing and dressing, to places in residential or nursing care homes. About 4m older people – nearly half the over 65 population – have care needs. But only 850,000 qualify for state help.

Some 370,000 of these are getting help in their home and nearly 240,000 in care homes or nursing homes. The rest get help from other services, such as day care, meals on wheels, or via home adaptations and equipment.

Once those who fund themselves are taken into account, the numbers getting help in their own home rises to about 850,000 and in care and nursing homes to about 450,000. Another 1.5m are reported to be relying on family and friends to provide support.

From April 2016 the amount you pay for care if you are over 65 is being capped at £72,000. To be eligible, you first need to be assessed by your council as having very high needs. Whether care is provided in your home or in a residential home, only the rate set by the council will count towards the cap.

The Government’s intention is clear – to press the much of burden of care into the hands of the consumer (via a friendly insurance provider). The problem is, without insurance, will consumers have adequate funds available?

Whether there really isn’t enough interest in care insurance policies or not, the fact that insurance firms are not queuing up to offer such policies is perhaps not that surprising. In 2014, one of the largest providers of insurance to UK care homes, Ecclesiastical Insurance Office, announced that it was withdrawing from the sector, with the exception of charity-operated care homes. Ecclesiastical insured around 30 per cent of all care homes in the UK, more than any other insurer. Abuse of patients by certain care home operators have been well documented in the media, pushing up the frequency of claims. Other insurers are expected to follow suit.

My advice is to start planning for your care as an elderly person sooner rather than later. We can’t expect the Government or the insurance industry to do it for us.