Govt takes a raincheck on care cap – not a delay but an abandonment, says Lamb
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Following last week’s announcement that the Government is to delay the introduction of a £72,000 cap on social care costs until April 2020, former coalition government care services minister Norman Lamb described the move as an abandonment, not a delay.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on Saturday, Mr Lamb said that, if the Government was delaying now because of funding pressures, the funding pressures in 2020, under a system that was creaking already, would be worse.
“It’s gone, it’s abandoned,” said Mr Lamb. “I can envisage no circumstances in which a Tory government in 2020 will see it as a priority to fund this reform. It was only the Lib. Dems who got this through government. Now, as soon as the Tories are in government on their own, they abandon it.
In a letter to the Local Government Association (LGA), in which the delay was announced, current care services minister Alistair Burt said new pension flexibilities introduced in April had created an opportunity for government to work with the financial sector to look at new products may be developed but Mr Lamb said the announcement had effectively stopped insurers in their tracks.
“Government has said that the financial services industry needs more time, but what they actually need is certainty,” said Mr Lamb.
“The financial services industry will have read this as, in effect, an indication that it’s not going to happen, so all of the work that was under way within financial services to adapt existing policies – and I know; I’ve talked to them all about it – will be put on hold because there will be no sense in the industry that this reform is ever going to happen.”
Care providers have reacted with concern, but no surprise, at the announcement of the delay implementing the cap on care fees, with some welcoming it. Care England, the biggest representative body for social care, called on the Government to use the postponement of the Care Cap as an opportunity to look at a long-term funding solution for social care. The association’s chief executive, Professor Martin Green, said that, alongside the previous announcement on a new national living wage, the delayed introduction of the Care Cap meant a long-term and sustainable funding solution for social care must now be sought.
“If the Government refuses to address the issue of funding, we will have a care system in crisis and the NHS unable to cope with the pressure,” said Prof. Green.
“The Government must not duck the opportunity with the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), to address the underfunding in social care.”
London-based provider Nightingale Hammerson has welcomed the announcement of the delay, with chief executive Helen Simmons saying it had come as no surprise, given that there has been no effective communication from them to the public on how it could work from the time the idea was first put forward.
“We welcome this decision to postpone and hope opportunity is taken to consult with all parties on how best to keep it simple and communicate how it will work to the public in a clear and focussed way,” said Ms Simmons.
In his letter to the LGA, Mr Burt was frank in giving the cost to the public purse as being a major reason for the delay in introducing the cap.
“The proposals to cap care costs and create a supporting private insurance market were expected to add £6 billion to public sector spending over the next five years,” said Mr Burt.
“A time of consolidation is not the right moment to be implementing expensive new commitments such as this, especially when there are no indications the private insurance market will develop as expected.”