However, a social care green paper promised by his predecessor has been repeatedly delayed, after attempts to introduce changes nearly cost Theresa May the last election.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “It is shameful that one a half million older people are living with some degree of unmet need for care, equivalent to one in seven of our entire older population. 

“For the last few years these figures have been getting worse as governments dither over how to overhaul a system of care that everyone agrees is no longer fit for purpose.”

The charity is calling for care free at the point of use for anyone with at least “moderate” needs, under standardised national eligibility thresholds.

It says at least £8 billion needs to be invested over the next two years

Ms Abrahams said far too many people were being left to “fend for themselves” when they needed help to live decently.

“If you are facing a decline in your ability to do everyday things, it’s hard enough if you have friends and family to help, but if you are on your own, as many are, then the outlook is not only depressing but frightening.

She said a “shared national pot” with care free at the point of use, along the lines of the NHS, would provide people with reassurance the state would be there if they needed it.

“Not having to worry about struggling alone, or being forced to sell your home to fund sky-high bills if at some point in your life you begin to need care, is a huge prize that would benefit us all,” she said.

Last year, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock mooted an “opt-out” insurance scheme, based on pensions, which would mean  every adult in England was expected to pay into a national fund to cover their care in later life.

But some critics said the system would only work if workers were compelled to pay into it, as happens in some other countries, such as Germany and Japan.

The Local Government Association has suggested over-40s could be asked to pay a £33 annual premium towards a social care fund, with rises in income tax or national insurance and means testing of benefits for pensioners, to cover the costs.

Around 39,000 fewer older people are receiving long-term care from councils than in 2015/16, down to 548,435, despite a rise in demand, data from NHS Digital shows. 

The average cost of residential care for a person aged 65 or over rose from £604 per week in 2017/18 to £636 in 2018/19, while the average cost of nursing care for this age group increased from £638 per week to £678.





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