Activists have called on disabled people and other campaigners to “get behind the findings” of a commission set up to recommend changes to the funding of care and support in England.
Although there was disappointment with some of the details of the Dilnot commission’s report, disabled people’s organisations have strongly welcomed most of its basic principles.
Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL), said the report’s recommendations were “light years better than the present system”, although she said NCIL would still prefer the government to go further and ensure all care was free and funded from general taxation.
Bott said Dilnot had “quite rightly” decided that those disabled people who enter adulthood with a care and support need are not “in a position to pay” for their care, which would particularly benefit those disabled people with careers and decent incomes, who presently have to fund much of their own support.
She said: “The current system is just so unfair to career-minded disabled people, it really is. It is sickening because it doesn’t matter what you do, there is no point in saving up for anything because you are just going to have it taken away.”
Bott also “very much” welcomed the report’s conclusion that disability living allowance (DLA) – and its planned replacement, personal independence payment (PIP) – should continue to be available to those with lower support needs.
She said it was “disappointing” that Dilnot only recommended limited “portability” of care for disabled people moving between local authority areas, and that attention would now turn to Baroness [Jane] Campbell’s portability private members’ bill, which she introduced in the House of Lords last month.
Bott said the reaction of other representatives of the social care sector to the report at a launch event this week was one of “relief all round”. “I think everybody felt this was something we can get behind.”
And she warned there would be “a lot of anger” if the government did not act now and produce legislation.
She said: “It might not be the ideal solution that some of us would want to see, but the important thing is that it is a solution and it is 100 per cent better than what we have at the moment and it is fairer and really it is not that expensive.”
Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, also said the system recommended by the report would be an improvement on the current framework, while some of the recommendations were “very good”.
She welcomed the proposal for national eligibility criteria and assessments of needs, an increase in the threshold for means-testing assets, and the introduction of free care for younger disabled adults.
But she said she feared that the government could “hijack” the framework “in a way that is extremely disadvantageous to disabled people”, for example by raising the cap on lifetime care costs and lowering the means-testing threshold.
Kane said the report should be seen as “a starting point”, with the ultimate aim being a national care service, free at the point of use and funded by general taxation.
RADAR said the report provided “an opportunity to break through the stalemate” on funding reform.
It said the social care system would only work if it was given the funding it needed – including money for an information and advocacy service – and was “grounded in unambiguous national guidance on eligibility”.
Liz Sayce, RADAR’s chief executive, said Dilnot’s proposals could provide a “real and sustainable solution to the dire situation that many people living with disability or health conditions find themselves in”.
“However, it must be developed into a fair, comprehensive, joined-up system that supports all people no matter the time of onset or the severity of their impairment or health condition or the extent of their care needs.”
Disability Alliance (DA) also welcomed the report and said that Dilnot’s recommendation that DLA and PIP should continue to be paid to those with lower support needs was “incredibly important”.
Neil Coyle, DA’s director of policy, said: “Dilnot and others are clear that benefits make a contribution to avoiding the need for more intensive care services or healthcare services.”
He said the government wanted to abolish the lower rate care component of DLA, which supports 652,000 disabled people to avoid hospitalisation and residential care.
He said: “The Dilnot reaffirmation of the evidence on how benefits can support people to avoid higher cost public services is very welcome in the broad debate on government plans to abolish lower rate care support.”
7 July 2011