Government retrieves care funding reform from the long grass


The government appears set to finally act over the funding of long-term care and support, according to reports this week.

Last month, the Conservative health secretary, Andrew Lansley, said it was an “inescapable conclusion” that final decisions on funding reforms recommended by the Dilnot Commission could only be made as part of the next spending review, expected in 2013 or 2014.

Lansley said the principles for reform would be based on Dilnot’s recommendations, but only “if a way to pay for it can be found”.

It is widely believed that George Osborne, the Conservative chancellor, blocked moves to fund the Dilnot recommendations.

But The Independent reported today (Thursday) that the prime minister had told his cabinet before their summer break: “We’ve got to do Dilnot.”

According to the newspaper, senior sources within both coalition parties said plans to fund Dilnot’s recommendations would be announced this autumn and included in a new version of the draft care and support bill that was published last month.

But Professor Peter Beresford, chair of the user-led Shaping Our Lives network, said he believed the coalition’s move was a result of “desperation with its own political difficulties” rather than a belief that Dilnot was the right solution to the care funding crisis.

He said that, although Dilnot had behaved “in a very creditable way”, his proposals would not provide “a long-term solution” to the social care funding crisis, while it would also be crucial to see the detail of any eventual government announcement.

He said service-users and carers did not need “coded messages” but “a really very clear commitment to dealing effectively and for the long term with social care funding”.

He added: “We do need to wait and see, but I do not feel encouraged.”

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.

Although the media focus has been on the funding of older people’s care, the Dilnot report also included proposals to introduce free care and support for life for all those with “eligible needs” who become disabled before the age of 40.

The commission said that those who become disabled after the age of 40 would be expected to make some contribution towards their lifetime care costs, with the total amount they were expected to pay rising by about £10,000 per decade.

The government has accepted this measure in principle, although the age at which contributions would begin to kick in has not yet been decided, and could be higher or lower than 40.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “As we made clear when we published our progress report on care and support funding reform, the government supports the principles of a capped cost model as recommended by the Dilnot Commission.

“We are continuing to explore a range of options for funding such a system, and as we have said, any proposal which includes extra public spending must be considered alongside other priorities at the spending review.

“Today’s press speculation is entirely consistent with the approach we have already set out.”

Number 10 has so far declined to comment.

16 August 2012

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