This blog was contributed by Caroline Abrahams, Director of External Affairs, for Age UK.
Last year’s White Paper and draft Bill make these encouraging times for social care, for decades a Cinderella service. What has been so obviously lacking though is the funding for a better system, so today’s announcement about the implementation of ‘Dilnot’ is a welcome step forward.
Unfortunately, implementation has to wait until April 2017, so very few older people living in a care home now will benefit, but at least some of those who come after them will: the Government estimates that 1 in 6 older people who need care will gain, but by just how much and over what timescale is hard to tell without detailed modelling which the Government has not (yet) released.
Means-test threshold change
The most important change is the fourfold increase in the upper limit of the means-test for residential care, to £123,000. More older people will benefit from this than from any of the other announcements.
In contrast, the level of the cap is disappointing: £75,000 may be too high to create an insurance market, or to safeguard every family home whose owner has to enter care from sale – though the Government will no doubt respond that its ‘deferred payments scheme’ means that at least this should not be necessary until after their death.
The capping of ‘hotel costs’ at £12,000 is welcome, but it means that care will be by no means free even after these reforms come in – but that was always going to be the case.
Still, the Dilnot approach is in place and Age UK will campaign hard for a more generous interpretation by 2017. A high cap is also far better than no cap at all because it ends the risk of unlimited care costs: one woman who contacted Age UK recently had spent £220,000 on care and counting.
Many older people will feel less anxious about the future as a result. But today’s announcements will not resolve the crisis in care funding.
To do that the Government must substantially increase and ring-fence the money it gives councils for social care, to improve its quality and extend its reach. Only then will Cinderella at last be able to go to the ball.