The commission on adult care funding will be fully independent, its chair has insisted, despite the government blocking any recommendation to introduce a compulsory “death tax”.
Speaking exclusively to Community Care before the first meeting of the Commission on the Funding of Care and Support, economist Andrew Dilnot said he would not have taken the job if he had felt compelled to deliver a politically acceptable solution.
Dilnot, formerly head of public spending experts the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: “It was made clear to me that we were an independent commission. That’s how I think of it. I wouldn’t have taken it on otherwise, so we don’t feel constrained.”
He said he would be surprised and disappointed if the government rejected realistic recommendations.
But he added trade-offs would have to be made because there was no perfect solution on how best to fund long-term care.
The “death tax” issue provoked a huge pre-election row after the Tories accused the Labour government of planning to introduce a £20,000 levy on estates to fund care.
Only last month prime minister David Cameron said his views on the “death tax” had remained unchanged, and care services minister Paul Burstow made clear any recommendation to implement such a levy would be rejected.
Dilnot said it should come as no surprise that any system that the commission puts forward will incorporate a mixture of public and private funding.
The commission will consider the respective benefits of a voluntary insurance scheme, as backed by the Tories, and the Lib Dem-favoured partnership model set out by Derek Wanless in his 2006 report for the King’s Fund, under which all users would receive state funding that they would then top up.
In 1997, Dilnot was a member of a Joseph Rowntree Foundation committee, which produced a report on meeting the costs of continuing care.
This recommended that both health care and social care should be free at the point of delivery for all older people and the establishment of a national care insurance scheme, funded through compulsory contributions.
He said that, 13 years on, the issue ought to be re-examined.
Dilnot said that, until the commission held its first meeting next week, he was unsure whether it would order new research or rely solely on existing work, including that carried out for the Labour government. However, it did want to hear from experts.
It must submit the criteria against which it will adjudicate on competing options to ministers by next month and will also feed into October’s comprehensive spending review. The commission must report to ministers by the end of next July.
Former social services directors Jo Williams and former Labour health minister Lord Norman Warner complete the three-person commission.