A national eligibility threshold for care and support will be introduced across England from 2015, ministers have announced.
The measure was one of a series of proposals outlined in this week’s care and support white paper, and will mean cash-strapped local authorities will no longer be able to tighten eligibility levels if they run short of cash.
Last month, research revealed that 83 per cent of councils were restricting care and support to those with “substantial” needs, while three local authorities were providing services only to those with “critical” needs.
Although there will be no decision on where the threshold will be set until 2013 at the earliest, the proposal was widely welcomed.
Most of the media and political attention this week focused on the government’s failure to announce plans for the reform of funding of long-term care and support.
The Conservative health secretary, Andrew Lansley, said that it was an “inescapable conclusion” that final decisions on funding changes recommended by the government-commissioned Dilnot Commission could only be made as part of the next spending review, expected in 2013 or 2014.
He said that the principles for reform would be based on Dilnot’s recommendations, but only “if a way to pay for it can be found”.
At present, those with assets above £23,250 have to meet all of the costs of their care and support themselves, but Dilnot suggested raising this for older people to £100,000, and imposing a cap of between £25,000 and £50,000 on the amount any individual should pay towards their lifetime adult social care costs.
Among measures that were announced by the government in the white paper, disabled people in residential homes will no longer – from April 2013 – have to give up their wages to pay for their care.
The government will also pilot the use of direct payments for people in residential care for the first time, while disabled people will be given a legal right to a personal budget as part of their care and support plan.
There will also be a new government website, from April 2013, which will provide a “clear, universal and authoritative” source of information on the health, care and support system, while adult safeguarding boards will be placed on a statutory footing.
The introduction of “portable” assessments for the first time will mean that disabled people who want to move from one local authority to another will not have to face a lengthy delay while they wait for their support needs to be re-assessed by their new council.
But the move does not go as far as the private members’ bill already introduced by Baroness [Jane] Campbell, which would allow disabled people to take their entire support package with them when they moved.
Instead, the new local authority will have to continue to fund the existing package only until it can carry out a fresh assessment.
Councils will have to provide a written explanation if the result of the new assessment differs from the previous one.
As well as the white paper, the government also published a draft care and support bill, which the Liberal Democrat care services minister Paul Burstow said “consolidates a dog’s breakfast of legislation that has evolved over the last 60 years” and “modernises it with a set of clear principles”.
12 July 2012