MPs and care campaigners today backed a drive to help pensioners who fear spending their final years in poverty and debt.
A crisis is facing Sunderland’s OAPs, left crippled by financial problems and soaring care costs.
Latest research shows that a place in a care home can typically cost more than £20,000 a year, well above the average pensioner’s income, and anyone with assets of more than £23,250 faces footing the bills themselves.
If their savings run out, they can be forced to put their property on the market.
This week saw Age UK Sunderland, which highlighted the crisis, launch a major campaign to force the Government to reform the care system for older and disabled people so that everyone receives the care they need to “live with respect and dignity”.
The charity claims that successive governments have repeatedly shelved the issue and, with recent budget cuts and a growing older population, the system is becoming increasingly “confusing, unfair and unsustainable”.
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD AN AGE UK PETITION FORM
Today, Wearside politicians and care campaigners gave their backing to the drive.
Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West, said: “It is painfully clear that the system of caring for our elderly and disabled needs urgent reform, both in making sure that people get the support they need, and working out the fairest way of paying for that.
“In the next 20 years there are likely to be 1.7 million more people needing some degree of care than there are now, so this is an issue on which all parties need to work together to find a long-lasting solution, and I hope that the Government will take that approach when they publish their White Paper in the near future.
“Kicking this vital issue into the long grass cannot be an option, so I very much support Age UK’s campaign to ensure that ministers get that message.”
Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, said: “There is an ever pressing need for reform, especially as care charges continue to rise.
“Everyone deserves dignity and respect in old age.
“It’s vital that we make sure our older residents get all the support they need, without the worry of financial hardship.”
Julie Elliott, Labour MP for Sunderland Central, said: “Pensioners in Sunderland deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and to spend their final years free from financial worry.
“The Government needs to protect people from a lottery of services dependent on where they live rather than what they need.
“It is only right that the elderly receive high quality care and support after contributing to society all their working lives and I will be pleased to add my name to Age UK’s petition.
“The care system is currently under extreme strain due to the Coalition’s cuts and Labour has offered the Tory-led Government the opportunity to put politics aside to work together to bring about a better, fairer and lasting system of support for our older people.”
Last year, disabled pensioner Ron Bradford, who suffers from spinal illness spondylitis and has also had a stroke, raised similar concerns in the Echo.
The 68-year-old retired taxi driver, of High Barnes, has three dual carer visits each day and says he will find it hard to pay for his support after it was revealed that a maximum cap could be removed.
Speaking in support of the Age UK drive, he said: “I can only see the problem of social care getting worse. This is going to leave a lot of people struggling, people who have been careful about their savings all their lives.”
IT is hoped the Care in Crisis petition would give everyone who feels strongly about the issue the chance to have their voices heard.
It calls on the Government to take urgent action to ensure that everyone who needs care, receives it, and that no-one is forced to sell their home or sacrifice their savings to pay for it.
The charity is also asking ministers to ensure that people are able to plan and prepare for care in advance.
Campaigners aim to collect 100,000 signatures by March 1, when they will deliver the petition to the Government ahead of the planned White Paper on the future of long-term care.
“We need to create a big noise to make sure the Government listens to our concerns and takes action now,” said Alan Patchett, director of Age UK Sunderland. “We want to collect 100,000 signatures, but cannot do it without your support.
“Please help us secure good care for older people now and in the future by signing our Care in Crisis petition.”
To sign up to Age UK’s petition click here or call in to the Age UK Sunderland offices at The Bradbury Centre, in Stockton Road, or Age UK charity shops on Blandford Street and Sea Road, Fulwell.