Social care problem is far from solved
Andrew Lansley's announcement on social care is better than nothing, but more could be done.
So the government has finally responded officially to last year’s Dilnot report on social care.
Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, has announced four main proposals in today’s White Paper:
1. Consistency of care
When it comes to social care, there’s a ‘postcode lottery.’ Different councils offer different levels of care – particularly when it comes to home-based care. Lansley wants to introduce national standards that all local authorities will be obliged to follow.
2. Cap on what an individual has to pay
The Dilnot report suggested that no one should have to contribute more than £35,000 towards care costs at the end of their life. (That cap wouldn’t apply to ‘hotel costs’ such as food and beds.)
Lansley has endorsed the idea of the cap, but hasn’t said what the amount will be. That will have to wait until next year when the government has completed its latest spending review. I wouldn’t be surprised if the figure is as high as £75,000 or even £100,000.
What’s more, the government has suggested that the cap might be ‘voluntary.’ In other words, you might have to make financial contributions to an insurance scheme if you wanted to benefit from the cap.
3. The means test will be extended
Currently, everyone with assets above £23,000 has to pay for the costs of their social care. Lansley has endorsed Dilnot’s proposal that this threshold should be raised to £100,000.
4. Local authorities will offer ‘death loans’
All local authorities will be obliged to offer loans to people who need social care. These loans will then be repaid when the person dies and his/her property can be sold.
This scheme will be known as the ‘universal deferred payments scheme.’ I suspect that ‘death loan’ will become the more widely used term.
Good or bad?
So what do I think of the proposals?
Well, I’m pleased that the government has endorsed the cap and extending the means test. But I’m disappointed that the financial details are so woolly. I can understand that the government doesn’t want to make big financial commitments at the moment, but we need to move forward on this. Too many people are suffering from lack of decent care right now, and that needs to change.
It’s a great shame that the government hasn’t put forward concrete proposals with figures and a firm timetable.
If the government feels it really can’t afford to implement the Dilnot proposals, then I’d urge ministers to consider the ‘death tax’ idea. This is where most estates would be taxed to pay for social care for those who need it. Read more in my blog post: Don’t rule out the death tax
And if you’re looking for ways to pay for someone’s social care right now, read Eight ways to pay for social care.