Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Care not

The number of elderly people requiring residential and nursing care is rising, as are the costs of providing such care. The care costs for some people were wiping out the vast majority of their limited assets.

In 2011, the Dilnot Commission recommended the introduction of a cap on social care costs “to protect people from extreme care costs” in a range of £25,000 to £50,000, with a suggested rate of £35,000. It also proposed an increase in the upper capital limit for the means-test – below which people are eligible for local authority financial support towards their care costs1 – from £23,250 to £100,000.

That led to the Care Act 2014 and, in February 2013, the Conservative Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, announced that the Government would follow the Commission’s recommendation and introduce a £75,000 cap on social care charges in April 2017. He also announced that those with assets worth £123,000 or less would receive some degree of financial support for their care costs. Just a month later, George Osborne changed that to a £72,000 cap and a £118,000 upper asset limit. In January this year, the draft regulations were published.

In April this year, David Cameron promised – as set out in the Conservative Party’s manifesto for the General Election - that a Conservative Government, if elected, would implement them and on the timescale already set.

On 17 July 2015, just 10 weeks later, the Government announced a four-year delay in the introduction of the cap on social care costs.

In this Ministerial announcement, reference was made to lobbying by the Conservative-led Local Government Association which had confirmed that the funding gap in adult social care is growing by a minimum of £700 million a year – fewer people are being cared for, home care charges are rising rapidly, hospital bed-blocking is at record levels, and Mr Osborne has already announced that he intends to make £9bn additional cuts in local services later this year – and suggested that the care cap costs would be better used to fund these services.

Unsurprisingly, the care cap has been delayed for a minimum of 4 years and there is no sign of the saving being used to support home care.

Are we seriously being asked to believe that Cameron, Osborne and Hunt had not already intended delaying the care cap when they made that manifesto promise?