The government has “betrayed” people who use social care by deciding to postpone the introduction of a cap on their care charges, according to a leading disabled figure.
Sue Bott (pictured), deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, spoke out this week following the government’s decision to abandon the key manifesto pledge, just weeks after the general election.
She said the move provides further evidence that “to all intents and purposes, the state is opting out of social care”.
The cap was due to be introduced next April, but social care minister Alistair Burt announced in a letter to the Local Government Association last month that he had “taken the difficult decision to delay the introduction of the cap on care costs system” until April 2020.
The cap was expected to add £6 billion to government spending over the next five years, but Burt said in his letter that it was “not the right moment to be implementing expensive new commitments”.
The cap would have placed a lifetime limit of £72,000 on the amount an individual had to pay in care charges towards meeting their assessed and eligible care needs.
Bott told Disability News Service (DNS) that the postponement meant that councils would continue to increase care charges.
She said: “The basic problem here is that the Department of Health does not even collect statistics on how much councils are charging for care, so the government has no consistent idea of what councils are charging.”
She said some councils were even beginning to charge new service-users before they had had an assessment of their financial position, while many people were being forced to pay care charges from their disability benefits, particularly disability living allowance and personal independence payment.
In a blog posted today (Thursday), Bott says the decision to postpone the cap’s introduction will mean that “hundreds of thousands of disabled people who rely on social care support will have to pay ever rising local authority charges for the foreseeable future”.
She also says she disagrees with the decision of the Care and Support Alliance – of which Disability Rights UK is a member – to welcome the postponement.
She told DNS: “I don’t mind saying that I am cross with them because the alliance didn’t put in a response to the government’s care funding consultation [last year] simply because we didn’t have agreement amongst ourselves about what position to take.
“So I don’t understand why, when the government announced this delay, they decided to comment. It doesn’t seem right to me.”
She believes that introducing the cap next April, as planned, would have forced the issue of social care funding into the public spotlight.
On 4 June, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Care pointed out that social care funding had already been cut from £14.9 billion to £13.3 billion (a fall of 10.7 per cent) between 2010-11 and 2015-16.
The cap would have helped working-age disabled people as well as older people, and would have meant that anyone who developed eligible care needs before the age of 25 would have paid nothing towards that support for life.
The changes would also have meant that other working-age disabled people – those who developed their care needs after 25 – would have been left with a higher guaranteed minimum income, after paying any care charges.
For working-age disabled people with care needs, the cap would have helped them escape the “huge injustice” of not being able to save any money, for example towards a holiday or their older age, Bott says in her blog
She adds: “Why should those of us who happen to have a care need be so much worse off than everyone else?”
She concludes: “Not only is the postponement of the care cap a betrayal of a Conservative Party manifesto commitment; it is a betrayal of social care itself.”