The importance of developing a system that is perceived to be ‘fair’ is a central element in debates about long-term care funding in the UK. It is therefore surprising that while previous research has established that older people tend to resent the idea of using housing equity, and other personal assets, it has often revealed little about the factors underpinning these attitudes or reflected on how they sit within a wider frame of social and political norms. Drawing on 60 semi-structured in-depth interviews with older home owners who have released equity from their homes, this paper explores why people feel that it is fair, or unfair, to require owners to use their housing equity to fund long-term care needs, once factors like reluctance to trade on the home, and mistrust of equity release products, have been excluded. While a small majority of our participants considered it unfair, a substantial minority thought it fair that they were required to use their accumulated housing equity to meet care needs. This distribution of attitudes enabled us to explore the reasons why participants held each view, and so reflect on the impact of pro-social and pro-individual norms in shaping attitudes towards intra-generational fairness and ideas about ‘responsible citizenship’. Our analysis posits that the factors that shape attitudes toward using housing assets to pay for care, and their relationship to the wider rhetorical framework of asset accumulation, management and decumulation, have been misunderstood by policy makers. We discuss the implications of our findings for policies that seek to promote the development of a housing-asset based care funding system capable of attracting widespread support.
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