Ministers to back care funding cap but delay implementation

Government to back cap on individuals' lifetime care costs but not set figure nor timetable for implementation, sparking concern from social care leaders.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said he wanted a consensus on funding the cap
Health secretary Andrew Lansley said he wanted a consensus on funding the cap

The government will this week back a cap on people’s lifetime care costs but will not specify a figure for the cap, nor a timetable for introducing it. A funding reform progress report published on Wednesday will back a costs cap, but any decision on the figure is likely to be delayed until the next government spending review due in late 2013 or 2014.

The government-commissioned Dilnot report last year proposed a cap on lifetime care costs of £35,000 which, if implemented now, would cost £1.7bn a year.  But the Treasury is believed to be concerned at the cost of such a move. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday, health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “We have said that we support the principles of the Dilnot commission and we do wish to take those forward. [But] we need to establish consensus not just that the principles are right but on how we pay for it.”

The news drew concern from social care leaders who criticised the delay in the implementation of the reform and the lack of any apparent commitment to addressing existing funding pressures in the care system – a separate issue to implementing a cap.

“The need to prioritise spend in this area is pressing and waiting for the next spending review is absolutely unacceptable,” said Bridget Warr, chief executive of the United Kingdom Homecare Association. “These reforms will take several years to become effective and there is also the immediate problem of how services for older and disabled people can be delivered in the current spending round.”

“Delay is not an option,” said Carers UK chief executive Helena Herklots. “Families are feeling the impact of the crisis in social care now – in crippling care bills, poor quality care or simply being left without support, pushed to breaking point caring for ill or disabled loved ones.  To recognise the urgency of this challenge and the desperation and fear caused by each day of delay, families will demand an urgent timetable to implement the reform needed.”

The news has also triggered the breakdown of cross-party talks on funding reform. Even though Labour also supports a care costs cap, it wanted the government to produce a cross-party progress report on funding, rather than a coalition report, as Wednesday’s paper will be. It also criticised the lack of a timetable for implementing the cap.

The funding progress report will be published alongside a White Paper setting out reforms to adult social care law and practice, including the introduction of statutory adult safeguarding boards and, it is predicted, a national system of eligibility and assessment for care to end the so-called postcode lottery.

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Mithran Samuel is Community Care’s adults’ editor.

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