Means-testing will remain a core part of the adult social care funding system because to remove it would entail the poor subsidising the rich, health secretary Alan Johnson said today.
Johnson told the National Children and Adult Services Conference that any reform to the system following next year’s green paper on adult care would keep the principle that government funding is targeted on those most in need.
He said: “Any political party that says that progress can be made without some kind of means-testing is being either dishonest or deluded. Any other kind of proposal will be regressive with the poor subsidising the rich.”
His comments distance the government from the partnership funding model proposed by Derek Wanless in his report for the King’s Fund on older people’s social care last year. Johnson spoke warmly about the model in a House of Commons debate last week that followed the announcement of a green paper, suggesting ministers may have favoured it.
Under Wanless’s proposal, everyone would receive a minimum level of free care that they could top-up with match-funded state contributions. The only respect in which it is means-tested is that the poorest would have their top-ups met through benefits, while it would benefit those with moderate wealth most, followed by the wealthy and only then the poorest.
Shadow health minister Andrew Lansley said the Conservatives backed the Wanless model, in a speech to the conference earlier today.
Johnson said he was keen to build a political consensus on reforming the funding system, saying this was “one of the key public policy challenges of our time”. He compared the issue with the debate on pensions that led to a white paper last year in which the government promised to reinstate the link between rises in the state pension and average increases in earnings.