4 Jul 2011

Care costs should be capped, says Dilnot

Plans for a £35,000 cap on social care costs for the elderly will not be acted on for at least another year, even though the report author called for action “as soon as possible”.

The Commission on Funding of Care and Support also called for the means-tested assets threshold to be increased from £23,250 to £100,000.

The changes, which would apply in England, would cost the Government about £1.7bn a year.

They would ensure that nobody requiring residential care in retirement would have to spend more than 30 per cent of their assets paying for it, said the Commission.

But, responding to the report in the Commons, the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, said the Government planned to consider the plans before going out to consultation in the autumn. A White paper – setting out what Ministers plan to do – will not be published until next Spring and legislation would follow that.

Mr Lansley said the Commission chairman, Andrew Dilnot, accepted the timetable.

“We are going to engage on the basis of the Commission on the Funding of Care and Support to a timetable that will work, to a timetable that gives stakeholders, the public and the engagement that we have between Government and Opposition the opportunity to come forward with a consensus,” said the Minister.

This problem will only get worse if left as it is, with the most vulnerable in our society being the ones to suffer. Andrew Dilnot

Earlier, Mr Dilnot said: “The current system is confusing, unfair and unsustainable. People can’t protect themselves against the risk of very high care costs and risk losing all their assets, including their house.

“This problem will only get worse if left as it is, with the most vulnerable in our society being the ones to suffer.

“Under our proposed system, everybody who gets free support from the state now will continue to do so and everybody else would be better off.

“Putting a limit on the maximum lifetime costs people may face will allow them to plan ahead for how they wish to meet these costs.”

The eagerly-awaited recommendations came amid signs that the political parties were prepared to enter talks on an issue that has proven highly contentious in the past.

‘Once in a generation chance’

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, John Healey, told MPs described the proposals as offering “a once in a generation chance”.

“This House, and the public, will need to hear from the Prime Minister himself to believe his Government is determined – as we are – to build a better, fairer and lasting system of care in our country,” he added.

Elderly care has risen up the agenda because of growing life expectancy. The number of people aged over 85 is expected to double over the next two decades, to 2.4m.

Mr Dilnot said there would be “disappointment” if a White Paper on the recommendations was not published by next Easter.

He added that he would like to see reforms implemented “as soon as possible”, which could be by 2014.

Dame Jo Williams, who sat on the Commission with Lord Norman Warner and Andrew Dilnot, said she would be “disgusted” if the Government ignored the report.

She said their sense was that there was a build-up of momentum, and the commission welcomed cross-party discussions on the future of care for the elderly and adults with long-term needs.

‘My mother lost everything’

Linda Rickford sold her parents’ house 10 years ago after her father died, and put the money aside for her mother, Lily Blackett’s care.

When Lily became too poorly to look after, Linda took out a long-term care plan, which cost more than £90,000, so she could move into a home and have all future costs covered.

Linda told Channel 4 News she would have appreciated some help from the State: “The care plan took up the vast majority of my mother’s money.

“I do feel that Joe Bloggs next door, who has never saved up, never bought property, gets help, and I think at the very least if they gave my mum what they gave Joe Bloggs and then if she wanted to top it up to get somewhere of a better standard, then that’s her choice.

She added: “There’s very little money left, and now I wouldn’t have it any other way as mum’s as happy as Larry. But yes, there is a bitterness she lost everything. Everything they’d worked for all their lives is now gone and won’t come through the family.”