Decision on social care funding in England facing delay

Posted by on Jul 07, 2012 | Comments Off on Decision on social care funding in England facing delay

The government is to agree in principle to cap the amount elderly and disabled people in England pay towards the cost of social care, when it publishes plans on the issue next week.

But there will be no final agreement on how to fund the changes, and a decision will not be made until the spending review expected late next year.

Labour said talks to try to secure a cross-party consensus had broken down.

The health secretary said ministers were committed to continuing talks.

Last July, a review chaired by economist Andrew Dilnot put forward a raft of ideas for changes to adult social care funding in England.

The most notable of these was a £35,000 cap on what people should pay before they get help from the state.

BBC political correspondent Robin Brant says the government will sign up to the funding cap principle when it publishes its White Paper on Wednesday, but ministers will not make any pledges on specific figures because there is no agreement yet on how to pay for it.

With the UK economy showing little sign of recovery and the coalition still not halfway through its deficit reduction plan, the chancellor wants to delay a decision until at least autumn next year in the government-wide spending review, our correspondent adds.

Labour claims there have not been any substantial talks on the issue since February and wants publication of next week’s proposals postponed.

But the government insists discussions have been continuing, with correspondence between the two sides taking place in recent months.

‘Raise threshold’

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “It would be a matter of regret for us if the Labour Party were not to continue with talks to find consensus on long-term funding of care.

“I have made clear that while we will make a progress report shortly on this, we want to continue such talks, not only between parties but with a broad range of stakeholders.”

If it’s genuinely the case that those talks have stalled that will be very, very disappointing”

Simon GillespieChairman, Care & Support Alliance

Currently in England, council-funded home help and care home places for the elderly and adults with disabilities are offered only to those with under £23,250 of assets.

The Dilnot report said the assets threshold should rise to £100,000 and a £35,000 lifetime cap on costs would be “fair”.

Just over £14bn a year is spent by councils on social care and changes would cost an extra £1.7bn a year if they were implemented now. This figure could rise by 50% as the “baby boom” generation begins to retire.

Campaign groups have said they fear the plans will be shelved because of the cost.

The coalition government asked Mr Dilnot to look into how the system could be changed amid concerns it was getting harder for people to get access to state support.

The ageing population and squeeze on council budgets have led councils to impose stricter criteria on who can get help. It means while 1.8 million are getting state funding, another one million-plus either have to pay for support themselves or go without.

Simon Gillespie, chairman of the Care & Support Alliance, said that one in two people needs care in their lifetime costing more than £20,000, while one in 10 requires care costing upwards of £100,000.

“We need to make sure that we have got arrangements in place so that that risk can be shared,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I think people understand that, and people understand that it’s got to be a shared contribution between the overall taxpayer but also individuals as well.”

Mr Gillespie said that the alliance had been pressing for a long time for a “long-term funding solution, and one of the mechanisms to achieve that was to try to get all three of the main parties together because this is a long-term issue affecting many millions of people across England”.

He added: “If it’s genuinely the case that those talks have stalled that will be very, very disappointing.”

Scotland offers free care to all, although fears have been raised that that policy is becoming unsustainable. Wales and Northern Ireland are waiting to see what happens in England following the Dilnot conclusions.

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