Fairer Care Funding: Will the ‘cap’ fit?

We heard this week that David Cameron and Nick Clegg have pledged their support for Economist Andrew Dilnot’s Government-commissioned report, in a bid to ‘revolutionise’ social care for the elderly.

The Dilnot report recommends that individuals should make lifetime contributions towards the care that they will need, but that these contributions should be capped at between £25,000 and £50,000 – Dilnot recommends £35,000 as a ‘fair’ figure. Under this model, the state would pay for the costs of care above the capped figure.

In addition, the report states that people living in care homes would be expected to contribute a standard amount to cover their general living costs, such as food and accommodation. A figure in the range of £7,000 to £10,000 a year has been suggested.

Despite Dilnot’s recommendations being published over a year ago, the Government has delayed acting upon any changes due to concerns about financial viability. However, recent speculations that Cameron will make an announcement on the future of funding this autumn, seem to suggest that the Government could be about to take on a crucial reform that has been a long time coming.

Dilnot has welcomed the Government’s move, but warned that there was no time to lose in reforming the “broken” system of funding care for the elderly. He said: “I am very pleased – the reason I wanted to do this in the first place was it was both urgent and possible to make a difference.”

Yet Cameron and Clegg’s signals of approval have not been welcomed by everyone. This morning for example, John Redwood, the Tory former minister, fiercely attacked proposals by Dilnot to cap the cost of care, in retaliation to the Government’s emerging support. Redwood argued that the £35,000 cap is misleading and would not provide the level of protection that people think it would. He also questioned whether there might be more effective ways of investing the £1.7bn that it would cost to fund the cap scheme, by spending it directly on improvements to the quality of care.

Dilnot responded with: “We are now in a position where the leaders of all the main parties and just about all of the stakeholder groups and most of the media think this is the right way forward.
“This is about giving people control over their lives at a time when they’re vulnerable and need that control.”

Is it just a numbers game? And will Dilnot win? It is difficult to establish exactly where the debate on care provision will end up. One thing that is certain though, the sector needs clarity as well as improvement to the current system and simplification needs to be at the heart of it all.

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