Care cap implementation plans scrapped
Was the end of last week a good time to bury bad news?
With the first phase of Brexit negotiations reaching fever pitch, you could be forgiven for missing an oral statement delivered by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, Jackie Doyle-Price MP, at around midday on Thursday.
Delivering a statement in the Commons Chamber, in response to the recent Opposition day debate on social care which took place in October, Doyle-Price confirmed what was already widely suspected.
To allow for fuller engagement and the development of the approach, and so that reforms to the care system and how it is paid for are considered in the round, we will not take forward the previous Government’s plans to implement a cap on care costs in 2020.
So this key element of the Care Act 2014, originally proposed as part of the Dilnot Commission report back in 2011, pledged by David Cameron as an election promise in 2015 and then, weeks later, delayed from introduction in 2016 to introduction in 2020, is officially scrapped.
The current Conservative government had a tough time when it came to the politics of adult social care funding during the snap election campaign in the summer.
Proposals were made in their manifesto to more than triple the current means test threshold for local authority funding to £100,000, but at the same time remove the proposed cap on later life care. Days later, following a widespread backlash, the proposal was amended to feature a lifetime cap.
Many commentators were quick to brand Theresa May’s proposals a ‘dementia tax’ and it’s been suggested that this, along with other factors, contributed to the near total collapse of the Tory vote in the general election.
So here we find ourselves in December 2017 discovering the care cap implementation has been formally scrapped. Instead, the Government have committed to publishing a Green Paper by summer 2018 setting out their proposals for reform.
We should be relieved to hear that Sir Andrew Dilnot and Kate Barker, both leaders of previous reviews on this subject, have been invited to share their views.
Speaking at the recent Royal London annual lecture, Sir Andrew Dilnot said:
Many of us will not need to spend large amounts on care in later life, but for those who do, the costs can be huge. We need to find a way to pool this risk rather than let it be a later life care cost lottery. A cap on care costs removes the catastrophic risk facing us all, and could help to stimulate more provision of private sector financial services. Coupled with a reform to means-tested state support, this could help tackle the ‘broken’ care market where the supply of residential and domiciliary care all too often does not meet the needs of older people.
Assuming his views about a cap on care costs remain unchanged and are adopted in the Green Paper, the next hurdle will be a political will to fully fund the proposals.
Once the Green Paper is published next summer, it will be subject to a full public consultation.
It will be very interesting to see what makes it into the Green Paper (there has been talk of an auto-enrolment style mandatory contribution for all workers towards a social care pot for later life) and subsequently whether the various political parties can reach agreement about what action is needed.
The longer care funding reform is left, the greater the scale of the challenge.
Local authorities are already struggling under the financial burden of providing social care for an ageing population. Families are desperate for certainty around what they might pay for the care needs of an elderly parent or relative in later life.
As much as I hope this latest announcement results in sensible proposals which are speedily implemented, I won’t be holding my breath.