The government is delaying its flagship policy to cap social care costs under the Care Act until April 2020, breaking a key pre-election manifesto pledge.
The cap on the amount self-funders will have to contribute to their care costs was due to be introduced from April 2016. Costs were to be limited to £72,000 for over 65s and younger adults with disabilities.
Two other key reforms have also been postponed until April 2020:
- A duty on councils to meet the eligible needs of self-funders in care homes at their request and;
- A more generous means test for residential care that the government estimated would have benefited an extra 23,000 people in 2016-17 alone.
The proposed appeals system for care and support will also be delayed so it can be considered as part of the forthcoming spending review.
In a letter to the Local Government Association, care minister Alistair Burt said a time of consolidation in public spending was not right to introduce “expensive new commitments”. The government predicted the reforms would cost £6bn over the next five years.
Earlier this month, the LGA called for the reforms to be delayed and the cash to implement them “instead put into the social care system itself”.
The government has made no indication of whether the £6bn saved by delaying the reforms will be injected into the social care system.
Councils received £146m at the start of this year to carry out early assessments of self-funders on the basis that the care cap would be introduced from next April. The Department of Health said no decision had been made on what would happen to that money.
Harold Bodmer, vice president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said that the government was right to delay the reforms given the “intolerable strain” on social care budgets.
“Frankly, if directors were asked to choose between implementing the funding reforms right now or having the money directly to fund these growing demands they would almost without exception prioritise a fair and sustainable funding settlement to meet the true cost of providing safe, good quality care,” he said.
“The important issue now must be to ensure that current services can benefit from the extra funding this decision makes available. This ought to be the beginning of a thoroughgoing, transparent process, through the coming spending review, of putting fair, equitable and fully-funded social care services back on track after what have been five devastating years.”
Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, echoed Bodmer’s call for the government to address social care funding in the forthcoming spending review.
“[We] must now, once and for all, use this time to develop a long-term and sustainable funding solution for social care. If the government refuses to address the issue of funding, we will have a care system in crisis and the NHS unable to cope with the pressure,” he said.