Former pensions minister calls for 'care pension' to ease costs in later life

A "care pension" which would help cover costs for people later in life should be introduced, according to a former pensions minister.

Sir Steve Webb, who is now director of policy at mutual insurer Royal London, said a solution is needed which could help people build up protection against the possibility of huge care costs later in life, which could force some to sell the family home.

The suggestion is outlined in a paper published by Royal London, which it said has been submitted to the Government.

It calls for policy changes which could combine existing pensions income drawdown arrangements with insurance against future care costs.

Royal London said at present there is a lack of financial products allowing people coming up to retirement to plan ahead for future care costs.

The paper points out that, following the introduction of the pension freedoms in 2015, growing numbers of people go into retirement with a pot of money from which they draw an income through retirement.

It suggests that care insurance could be bolted on to these income drawdown arrangements.

To make these products workable, payments into such policies should be tax-free, and there should be an overall cap on lifetime care costs, so that insurers are not taking on an open-ended liability, the paper suggests.

At present, a major barrier to insurers offering such products is forecasting potential future care costs, decades into the future, especially given the potential for major medical advances, Royal London said.

Sir Steve Webb warned that huge care costs could lead to some people having to sell their homes
Sir Steve Webb warned that huge care costs could lead to some people having to sell their homes

The paper suggests products could be branded as "inheritance insurance", as those who faced large care costs in later life would no longer face risks of having to sell a family home to meet care bills.

Sir Steve said: "More than one in four of us will spend some time in later life in residential care, and the total bill can easily run into tens of thousands of pounds.

"In extreme cases, people can be forced to sell their family home to pay for care.

"It ought to be possible to take out insurance against this risk, but insurers are reluctant to offer products and consumers have been reluctant to take them up.

"A care pension could build on the increasingly popular income drawdown product by adding in care insurance."