At the end of last month, Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, delivered the budget for the coming financial year. Did you hear it, and if so, what did you think? We’ve pulled out some of the most pertinent facts relating to older people and their care, so that you can be aware of any changes that are likely to affect you.
Pensions and benefits
In the budget, it was announced that both the old state pension and the new state pension would be increased by three per cent from next April. For you, that means an increase of £3.65 a week on the old state pension, and £4.80 per week if you’re in receipt of the new state pension. If you receive pension credit, the standard rate of guarantee credit will rise by £3.65 per week for single people, and £5.55 if you are a couple. The savings credit will increase by 20p a week for singles and 9p per week for couples. All these changes will take effect in April 2018.
No changes to the state pension age were noted, although you’ll probably remember there was an announcement about this back in the summer. This currently means men are entitled to state pension from age 65, and women are currently entitled from 63 and nine months. The pensionable age for women is gradually increasing from 60 to 65, and by the year 2026 the pensionable age for everyone will be 67.
Private pension allowances have been increased, with the lifetime allowance now standing at £1,030,000. This limit is the value of pay-outs you’re allowed to receive from your pension schemes, either as lump sums or as retirement income, without being required to pay additional tax.
Most working age benefits were to remain unchanged following the budget announcement. Benefits such as jobseeker allowance have been frozen at last years levels for four years. This is to remain in place until 2020, following the welfare reform and work act of 2016. If you’re in receipt of any benefits at all, you’ve probably already heard about the universal credit. This means tested benefit is designed for working age people, and will replace a whole raft of common benefits including the tax credit schemes, jobseekers allowance, housing benefit, income support and many more.
This benefit is being rolled out to all claimants right now, and will be completed by December 2018. There have, so far, been a number of problems with receiving first payment, with some families being made to wait longer than expected. Measures have been put in place to speed up this process, and from April 2018, housing benefit will continue to be paid until the new universal credit kicks in.
Personal allowances have increased slightly, from £11,500 to £11,850, and marriage allowance can be used to transfer unused allowance between spouses. A major change to this now is that claims can be made where a spouse has passed away before the claim was complete, and can be backdated for up to four years.
Another important taxation issue to be aware of is that local authorities will have the right to increase council tax on empty homes from 50 per cent up to 100 per cent. Owners of empty houses could end up paying 200 per cent of the council tax rate as a result. However, if a home is standing empty because the person has gone into hospital or a care home, they won’t be likely to incur the empty homes charge, and in fact may be exempt from council tax altogether.
Disability and health
The Disabled Facilities Grant is being increased by £42m next year, giving it a total pot of £473m to spend. This is used to make adaptations to the homes of older people and disabled people, to allow them to live safely in their own homes. £1.2bn is being made available for adult social care next year, although experts have said this still falls short of what is needed to avert the collapse of services across the UK.
The chancellor also announced more money for the NHS, with £335m being injected over the remainder of this year, and a further £1.6bn in 2018/19. Notable by its absence was any move to tackle the estimated 34,300 older people who die during the winter because of cold related illnesses. Known as ‘excess winter deaths’ this was the highest figure for the last five years, and seems to be an issue the government would rather overlook than deal with.
If you care for an older person or have an older relative in your family, be sure to share this news from the recent budget with them.