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Various policy groups have been setting out how they see social care being funded in the future, including a House of Lord’s committee, a conservative think tank and the Labour party. A new development in the drive to a digital NHS is an app to cut A& E waiting lists. Also in the news: online pharmacy marketing tactics, scamming equity release sites, inheritance allowances, pensions and the HMRC, inter-generational fun, scam marriages, and what the loss of smell could mean for older people.

Perplexing pensions

This is Money tells the story of taxpayers who thought a letter they received from the HMRC saying that they had a shortfall in NI contributions meant they could improve their position by filling in the gaps. Not quite the case apparently, though it’s all very unclear. The article points to a useful top ups guide created by former pensions minister Steve Webb.

Here come the equity release scammers

While equity release is becoming an increasingly popular way of releasing capital from homes, Money Mail has discovered a disconcerting number of websites posing as comparison sites but actually simply existing to collect personal data and sell it on.

Keeping up with inheritance allowances

Are you up to date with all the various allowances available to minimise inheritance tax? We’re now paying more inheritance tax than ever before says the HMRC, and Moneywise reports that many people don’t know what they can actually do to mitigate this.

day surgery in Northern IrelandApp to cut a&E waiting times

There’s a new app being trialled in some areas of the country that could help to reduce waiting times in A&E. The WaitLess app gives patients access to latest waiting times and travel times to nearest hospitals, allowing them to decide where to go for urgent treatment. It’s also hoped that the app will relieve emergency care pressures by sending patients with non-urgent issues to GP-led treatment centres. Currently the app is available in Kent and some other regions, but NHS officials are said to want it rolled out across England.

Online pharmacy warning

Beware the online pharmacies with aggressive marketing tactics. According to an investigation by the Guardian, at least two major online firms, registered with the UK regulator, are emailing customers with messages suggesting they need to order now or miss out. This comes amid rising concern about the rising use of opioid drugs, such as morphine, fentayl, oxycodone, tramadol and codeine. The pharmacy regulator for England, Scotland and Wales has recently introduced new rules with the aim of protecting people from buying inappropriate drugs over the internet.

campaign for free personal careWhere next for social care?

A whole raft of reports and announcements on the future of social care have been released in the last week.

First, a Lords committee on intergenerational fairness and provision has recommended that retirees should lose free TV licences and the state pension lock; pay National Insurance; and only receive a taxable bus pass and the winter fuel allowance five years after retirement. The committee also suggested reforms of council tax, stamp duty and inheritance tax.

Then a report from the conservative think tank, the Centre of Policy Studies, has aired its views on how social care should be funded in the future. The report is authored by former work and pensions secretary Damian Green. The BBC’s coverage focuses on the suggestion that wealthier homeowners should be asked to make a voluntary payment of up to £30,000 for their care needs, while homeowners would be encouraged to plug more by downsizing or equity release.  Meanwhile Housing Today picks up on the advice that the building planning system needs to be revamped to encourage developers and local councils to build more care and retirement homes.

The Labour Party has declared it would spend £2.8 billion to increase the number of home care packages for vulnerable people if elected. It would spend £350 million on training for the social care workforce, and increase carer’s allowance. It also promised “quality care for everyone” and an end to 15 minute care visits.

Still no sign of the Government’s Green Paper on the future of social care, although minister for social care Caroline Dinenage has been warning that when it does arrive it will not be the panacea to all ills that many are hoping for.

The good news is that the Welsh Government has announced more than £11 million to transform the way health and social care services are delivered in North Wales. Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said the money will be used to support three projects that will bring health and social care services closer to people’s homes.

Loss of smell as a symptom for mental health

Sense of smell tests could be used to pick up early signs of dementia and other health issues, say researchers. They’re not sure why, but studies have found that while older people often lose their sense of smell, the inability to recognise and remember smells could be linked to Alzheimers disease and Parkinson’s disease, as well as cardiovascular disease. .

Bringing generations together

We’ve seen quite a few stories inspired by the Channel 4 series “Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds”, which introduced youngsters to the residents of care homes, to the benefit of both. One of the latest ideas is this group set up by a church, which brings together generations to have fun. A great success despite initial misgivings from young and old.

Beware the marriage scammers

Most alarming story of the week comes from Huffpost, which reports that older people are being groomed into “predatory marriage” by inheritance hunters. Apparently a marriage renders any previous wills null and void, and the new partner inherits automatically unless a new will is made.

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