The commission established today to reform care funding will have to act quickly in setting out how its direction of travel, health secretary Andrew Lansley has made clear.
It will have to report back to government within two months on the criteria it intends to use to judge competing proposals for reform, Lansley told the health select committee today.
The government has already said that the commission will feed into the Treasury’s comprehensive spending review, which will set out public spending plans for 2011-15 and will be published three months from today. The commission, which includes economist Andrew Dilnot and former social services directors Norman Warner and Jo Williams, must produce its final report 12 months from now.
Lansley told the health committee the solution would involve a combination of state funding and individual contributions but he was not looking to “pre-judge” the commission’s findings by determining the level of state funding it should propose.
However, he pointed out that it was important for the commission to take into account both the level of public funds available and the “achievable” level of private funding in order to design a sustainable system.
The sharp timescale sparked concerns from think-tank the Social Market Foundation, which warned that rushing the process could lead to the commission’s conclusions not being acted upon.
The think-tank’s social care expert, James Lloyd, said: “Deficiencies in both detailed analysis, as well as attempts to build consensus and prepare public opinion, will be highly detrimental to the achievement of much-needed reform.”
However, the commission was also urged “not to let the complexity of the task slow the timescale to an unacceptable level” by Amanda Kelly, social care lead at consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Among the options the commission will consider is the “partnership model” set out by Derek Wanless in his landmark 2006 report for the King’s Fund, under which the state would fund the majority of personal care costs for most users.
The health think-tank’s chief executive, Professor Chris Ham, said it still backed the model, adding: “This would be far more generous than the current system and would meet the key tests of fairness, affordability and sustainability that will be at the forefront of the commissioners’ minds.”
He said he hoped the commission’s contribution to the spending review would “stress the need to break down barriers between health and social care and pool budgets at a local level”.
Ministers have also told the commission to take account of the government’s plans to reform welfare to cut benefit spending and improve work incentives.
However, Carers UK raised concerns about how the review would fit into the government’s welfare reform agenda, which includes plans to cut by 20% the number of disability living allowance claimants of working age.
Chief executive Imelda Redmond said: “There is already a significant amount of anxiety in families about the reform of disability benefits and how it will impact on their ability to meet the extra costs of disability.”