MORE than 4,000 older people in York have applied for financial help as the rising costs of social care empties their savings account.

It comes after care groups hit out at Prime Minister Boris Johnson and what they described as a "broken" system in need of reform.

The Queen confirmed proposals for social care reform will be brought forward as she set out the Government’s legislative agenda in May, but no further detail was given. The proposals could reportedly include a cap on costs – first proposed a decade ago –to avoid people having to sell their homes to pay for care.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said it was an important step forward despite the lack of a clear plan. She said: “Ministers have made it clear that they see a cap on sky high care costs as the centrepiece of their reforms, because it is so evidently unfair for anyone to be financially ruined by long term care bills.

“However, this is not the only unfairness in how care operates today, and it would be a bizarre outcome if we gave more protection to homeowners, while leaving those with fewer assets to the current underfunded system."

NHS figures, which cover care organised through the local authority, show that social care costs for over-65s have increased in recent years in York.

In 2019-20, the average weekly cost of a residential or nursing care place was £851 per person – £193 more than 2016-17 in real-terms. That was significantly higher than the England average of £679.

Overall, City of York Council spent £29.7 million on care for older people during 2019-20, including income from people paying towards their own care, and other organisations. It is a cost the Government should "confine to history", the Council said.

A Council spokesperson said: “The pandemic has raised the profile and value of social care in its own right, we have rightly been reminded of the amazing work done by carers every single day. This past year has also highlighted the urgent need for the long-awaited proposals to fix the social care crisis to be delivered. Over the last 20 years the adult social care sector has borne the brunt of many broken promises, which continue to be a bitter blow to the millions of people who draw on and work in these vital services as well as local councils who have to continue to patch up Government failures.

“It is time to move forward from the place of rhetoric to action – specific action that will support the sector and local authorities, addressing the recognised need for greater fairness in how care is paid for and funded.

“We must confine to history the approach of quick fix solutions in the form of additional one-off grants and the adult social care precept to fund social care. This Government continues to only offer sticking plaster solutions which are unsustainable and depend on council tax whilst cutting local government funding, which only deepens the crisis.”

Sam Monaghan, the CEO of charity care provider MHA which has one retirement home in York, said: “What we now need is decisive action from Government. We need to make sure care is properly resourced, we value our care workers, people have a say in their care, funding is transparent and accountable and delivered through financial regulation, and there is a seamless pathway with health services.

“The time for talking is over. Ageing isn’t an abstract concept, it’s something which we will all have to face one day so it’s in all our interests to get this right going forward. We need a clear plan to support the future funding and framework to support older people. We have a growing population of older people who deserve respect and certainty for their future.”

The charity has since launched the #FixCareForAll campaign which calls for urgent action to be taken.

While Fiona Carragher, Director of Research and Influencing at Alzheimer’s Society, said: "The pandemic has exposed the deep-rooted cracks in our failing social care system, demonstrating the desperate need for urgent reform."

NHS Digital data shows that in York, around 70 people were classified as “self-funders with depleted funds” – those who had to fall back on council support after exhausting their assets paying for care – in the three years to March 31 2020. There were around 4,225 new requests for local authority support for people aged 65 and over in York in 2019-20.

Currently, anyone with assets or savings worth £23,250 or more has to pay the full cost of their care. People with less than that, but more than £14,250, have to pay a contribution to care costs, while the council will cover the full bill if someone’s capital falls below this threshold.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman previously said: “Improving the adult social care system remains a priority for this government and we will bring forward proposals later this year to ensure everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

“Throughout the pandemic we have provided almost £1.8 billion in specific funding for adult social care including infection prevention and control measures."