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Keys Sitting - 13th November 2007 13 November 2007

Oral Question 9 | Oral Question 10 | Oral Question 11 | Oral Question 12 | Oral Question 13

The question number refers to the question order specified in the official Tynwald Order Paper. To read the answers, scroll down this page or select a link to a question from above.

Question NumberSubjectQuestion from
Oral 9Hydrotherapy Facilities Mr Houghton, MHK
Oral 10Pensions for carersMr Karran, MHK
Oral 11Funded scheme for nursing and residential homes Mr Karran, MHK
Oral 12Allowances in nursing and residential homesMr Karran, MHK
Oral 13Nursing and residential homesMr Karran, MHK

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Oral Question 9

For Oral Answer:The Hon Member for Douglas North (Mr Houghton) to ask the Minister for Health and Social Security –

Do the Department have any proposals to re-introduce hydrotherapy facilities on the Island?

Answer

Mr Speaker

I Thank the Honourable Member for his question in relation to Hydrotherapy facilities.

My Minister is aware of the issues and will consider this along with the many other priorities that are presently under discussion.

Oral Question 10

For Oral Answer:The Hon Member for Onchan (Mr Karran) to ask the Minister for Health and Social Security –

In view of the numbers of long term carers who are sacrificing their own careers and pensions in order to look after relatives at home which is a great saving on the expenses to the taxpayers, what policies has your Department got in order to develop a scheme to provide some form of pension when carers reach their retirement to recompense for their sacrifice in providing care for their disabled relatives etc?

Answer

Mr Speaker

A social security benefit known as Carer’s Allowance is already available to people who have given up or refrained from taking substantial employment in order to look after a severely disabled person for at least 35 hours a week. To qualify, the disabled person being looked after must be getting Attendance Allowance, Constant Attendance Allowance or the middle or highest rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance.

Whilst in receipt of Carer’s Allowance a person can also work without losing any of their benefit, provided their weekly earnings are less than £95.00.

Also, for each week a person receives Carer’s Allowance they are also entitled to a full National Insurance credit which counts towards entitlement to basic State Retirement Pension and to Incapacity Benefit.

And since April 2002 recipients of Carer’s Allowance also build up rights to Additional State Pension as if they had earnings at the Lower Earnings Threshold, i.e. £12,500 for the current financial year.

As part of the State pension reforms to be introduced for those attaining State pension age on or after 6th April 2010, the number of qualifying years required for entitlement to a 100% basic State pension will be reduced from the present 49 for men and 44 for women to 30 for all. This measure will greatly assist those with interrupted work records, such as carers, to achieve entitlement to a full State pension.

Mr Speaker, the Department does recognise and greatly appreciate the valuable contribution which carers make in our society. Indeed my Minister is sympathetic to the difficulties which they face.

Oral Question 11

For Oral Answer:The Hon Member for Douglas (Mr Karran) to ask the Minister for Health and Social Security –

Can the Minister give us an update as to where we are currently regarding the review of long term care and the issue of a funded scheme to pay for our long term care in nursing and residential homes?

Answer

Mr Speaker

I understand that the Honourable Member for Onchan is referring to the concept of a scheme funded by Government that would meet all or most of the costs of care of people in nursing and residential homes.

Whilst I agree that such a scheme has its merits there would be a significant cost to the tax payer in perpetuity and at the present time the Department does not have the latitude to introduce such a scheme. In 2005 the department calculated that if we were to pay for the personal care of people in nursing and residential homes the additional costs would be in the order of £9.7m per annum.

As the Honourable Member will recall Tynwald gave approval on 17 April 2007 to the introduction of payments for the cost of Nursing Care in line with the Coughlan judgement. The Minister expects to bring forward enabling legislation early next year in the Social Services Bill. This will permit the Department to introduce a scheme to meet the costs of those elements of care that can only be given by a nurse or other medically qualified person, usually referred to as Nursing Care. The actual costs would be dependent on the numbers assessed as needing that type of care at any time and the level of payment agreed. In 2005 the Department estimated the costs of such a scheme paying £100.00 per week for such care as being £1m per year.

Oral Question 12

For Oral Answer:The Hon Member for Onchan (Mr Karran) to ask the Minister for Health and Social Security –

In view of the recent revelation in the 30th October 2007 sitting of this House over the number of persons in nursing homes who are losing their personal allowances through being taken into their general allowances from the Department, will you change the law to ring-fence monies allowed for personal allowances in nursing and residential homes so that they are not taken by the proprietors of such institutions for general accommodation fees?

Answer

Mr Speaker

May I first clarify that the personal allowance to which the Honourable Member refers is, in fact, an element of income support for those in nursing and residential accommodation and not some separate social security benefit.

Honourable Members will be aware that income support is a means-tested benefit. It is essentially a balance to make up a shortfall in a person’s income against prescribed amounts set out in regulations. In the case of persons living in privately operated residential and nursing homes, those prescribed amounts are in respect of the fees chargeable by the respective homes (subject to maxima) and a personal allowance of, currently, £26.90 per week. Where a person’s income, including any assumed income from capital but excluding any Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance, exceeds the total of prescribed amounts then there is no entitlement to income support. If there is a shortfall then, generally speaking, that shortfall is made up by way of income support.

5 of the Island’s 7 commercially-operated nursing homes are currently charging a fee in excess of the maximum allowance provided for by the income support regulations. Residents are therefore having to use some, if not all, of their personal allowance to meet their fees.

This is a regrettable position but not one which has been brought about by the Department’s actions. Some nursing homes’ operators persistently increase their fees beyond the rate of inflation and the Department simply cannot afford to keep pace with them, even if it were justified. 4 nursing homes are now charging fees which are substantially greater than the amount which the Office of Fair Trading recently recommended as a fair price to pay for nursing care and indeed are beyond the reach of those receiving State support, leaving family and friends having to make up the shortfall.

Mr Speaker, it is a matter of contract between individuals and the homes’ operators how much they pay for their residency. The Department has no power to limit the amount homes’ operators may charge or to tell individuals what they should pay.

No matter how the personal allowance is delivered, if the amounts charged by the homes' operators outstrip the maximum available from the State, then the individual will have to call upon their personal allowance to help bridge the gap. This would be the case even if the personal allowance was somehow provided for outside of the income support scheme.

Mr Speaker, the solution to this problem, if there is one, lies in controlling the amount that homes’ operators may charge their residents, perhaps under powers contained in the Island’s Fair Trading Act, so that they are within the capacity of State-supported residents. However, I caution that such an approach would be interfering in the market place and Members would be wise to consider that.

Oral Question 13

For Oral Answer:The Hon Member for Onchan (Mr Karran) to ask the Minister for Health and Social Security –

  1. How many young, chronically sick persons are in nursing and residential homes and how are payments made for such accommodation;
  2. do the young people lose the pocket money like the elderly people do because of the benefit capping with Social Security?

Answer

Mr Speaker

In regard to part 1 of the Honourable Member’s question, there are around 20 chronically sick or disabled adults under the age of 65 currently residing in privately operated nursing homes and 14 such persons currently residing in privately operated residential homes. Payments for such accommodation are funded from the individual’s own income, if any, together with the relevant social security benefits, for example incapacity benefit, disability living allowance and income support.

In regard to part 2 of the Honourable Member’s question, I can confirm that the same system for supporting the elderly who live in privately operated residential and nursing homes also applies to younger people. Income support allowances for privately operated homes’ fees are subject to maxima. If the resident is being charged a fee which is greater than the maximum income support allowance for that accommodation, then he or she may have to use some or all of their personal allowance to make up the shortfall.

Some of the aforementioned persons also receive the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance which, although not intended to so, could also be used to make up any shortfall.

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