Yesterday there were ripples of excitement in Age UK. There are signs that the Government is warming to the idea of introducing a Dilnot-style cap for social care costs and, moreover, are edging towards a commitment to find the money in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.
The turnaround is surprising – we were somewhat dismayed in July when Government indicated it ‘it support(s) the principles of the approach’ of the Dilnot Commission and that it would ‘consider various options…before coming to a final view in the next spending review’. Hardly warm words. At the time it seemed clear the political will to push forward with reform was lacking.
So while there is still no firm agreement on what a package would be, yesterday’s reports that senior ministers have confirmed they are serious about driving through reform is a major step forward and extremely encouraging.
It’s worth reminding ourselves of the benefits of the Dilnot Commission’s model, and how they would help end the current crisis in social care:
- These proposals protect people from catastrophic care costs. About three quarters of us will have care needs in later life, half will need to spend over £20,000, but 1 in 10 people will spend over £100,000 on their care needs which can wipe out savings and force them to sell their home.
- Older people tell us the current system makes them anxious and fearful of losing all of their hard-earned money if they are unlucky enough to need long term care. Setting a cap on what people would individually have to pay means no one faces catastrophic cost. It would also enable people to include care in their overall planning for later life, something which is practically impossible in the current system for even the most conscientious of us.
- The proposals create a universal system that offers support and protection to everyone. Older people have been telling us for many years that they feel the care system is unfair and penalises people who have worked hard and done the right thing but, through no fault of their own, find themselves facing huge care costs. Older people feel strongly that they have paid into the system over their lifetime and then when they need help they’re on their own. We need a system everyone knows they can rely on when they need it, and this is something that the public feel is important.
- We would all benefit from the additional protection, but it would afford the greatest protection to people on modest incomes who currently lose out the most. For example, 66% of all C2DE demographic households are owner occupied with the median house value amongst those who own their own houses between £120,000 and £127,000. Under the current system someone entering care with assets of £100,000 could stand to lose up to £82,000 of that in care costs. With a cap set at £35,000 they would only use £28,000.
- The proposals provide a stronger platform for provision of financial services products, which could provide additional choice for people when they plan ahead.
It is true that the Dilnot plan alone will not solve our social care crisis, but it is an important component. We do urgently need to address the funding gap and invest more money in improving quality in the system, extending support to people with moderate needs and developing prevention and early intervention services. However, simply injecting more money into the current system without more fundamental funding reform will fail to crack this long term problem. Instead the Dilnot plan is a game-changer, it would create a fair deal for all citizens and give people real assurance about what they may have to pay in future.
We hope there are exciting times ahead. This is a good start and, together with the reforms set out in the draft legislation, we hope signals a determination on the part of the Coalition to leave a lasting legacy they can be proud of.