Coalition edges closer to action on funding
Comment by Caring Times editor GEOFF HODGSON
In its mid-term review, the Coalition Government took another hesitant step towards changing the way in which the State contributes to the cost of social care in England.
In contrast to a speculative fanfare in the national Sunday papers on January 6th, with talk of a £75,000 cap on privately-paid care costs, and a raising of the means test threshold to £100,000, the Government merely signalled its good intentions the following day.
Des Kelly, executive director of the National Care Forum said it was encouraging that issues of care and health were highlighted as key priorities in the mid-term review, but once again, there was no detail on addressing the twin approach recommended by Dilnot – both capping care costs and raising the means-tested threshold.
“Most people still perceive the social care system to be complex, unfair and inequitable,” said Mr Kelly.
“The limited details in this announcement make it look disappointing. The introduction of a cap on residential care costs addresses only a part of the problem. The growing funding crisis in the care sector remains unresolved and, given demographic pressures, will continue to create pressures on the system.”
The day after the mid-term review was published, health secretary Paul Burstow asked deputy prime minister Nick Clegg: “Yesterday the Government, in their mid-term review, reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of a cap and reform of means-testing to end the care lottery in this country. Will the deputy prime minister now go further than just considering principles and commit this Government to introducing legislation, through the draft Care and Support Bill, during the life of this Parliament to give effect to that cap?”
The deputy prime minister’s response was: “I can confirm that in the coming weeks we will publish our detailed response, which will address the issue of how to avoid individuals and households having to face catastrophic costs in funding their care. We have said all along that we believe in the principles and the basic model set out by Andrew Dilnot. Of course there is an issue about how to pay for this in the future, but the first step is to enshrine that approach in legislation, which we will seek to do during this Parliament.”
This response falls a long way short of any commitment to action. ‘Enshrining the approach in legislation’ can be decoded as meaning that one or two clauses will be inserted into the Care and Support Bill going through the present Parliament, allowing for a cap on private payment of care costs at some point in the future. Many people believe this will be, at the earliest, in the spring of 2015, against the backdrop of the next general election. Central government cannot dither for ever on this issue. As the inadequacy of homecare becomes increasingly evident, and as the elderly demographic changes, with older people having ever more electoral clout, the prevaricating politicians will be compelled, one day, to take a long look at their priorities.