Fairer Care Funding?

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    T h e Commission on Funding of Care and Support has presented its findings to the Government in its report Fairer Care Funding, published on 4th July 2011.

    The independent commission, set up by the Government last July, was asked to recommend a fair and sustainable funding system for adult social care in England.

    Among the recommendations in the report are:

    • Individuals’ lifetime contributions towards their social care costs, which are currently potentially unlimited,should be capped. After the cap is reached, individuals would be eligible for full state support. This cap should be between £25,000 and £50,000. They consider that £35,000 is the most appropriate and fair figure;

    • The means-tested threshold, above which people are liable for their full care costs, should be increased from
    £23,250 to £100,000;

    • National eligibility criteria and portable assessments should be introduced to ensure greater consistency; and

    • All those who enter adulthood with a care and support need should be eligible for free state support immediately rather than being subjected to a means test. The Commission estimates that its proposals – based on a cap of £35,000 – would cost the State around £1.7billion.

    The ‘Dilnot Report’ as it has become known, named after the Chair of the Commission, has been widely criticised since its publication earlier this week as being too expensive. Concerns over the bleak outlook for the government accounts has been the centre of criticism. As the ageing population grows the cost of health and care was already projected to increase by £40 billion and the costs of pensions by £32 billion. The proposals would see this rise even further.

    The last serious attempt at care reform was during the Conservative campaign in 2010 with talk of lump sum payments being taken on death to fund care.

    Then, as now, the main political parties were talking about cross-party consensus. They insisted reform was needed so that old people didn’t have to sell their homes to pay for their care and this is still the case.

    However, their attempt to reach agreement failed and led to what Ed Miliband described as “political bickering”.

    Reform is welcomed to change the current confusing and unfair system, conceived in 1948, which has a ‘cliff edge’ approach to means testing meaning that anyone with assets above the £23,250 threshold receive no funding assistance for care. A quarter of 65 year olds today can expect to face care costs of over £50,000 and for one in 10 it will be more than £100,000. The proposals for reform may take number of years to implement however Dilnot is confident that a white paper will be issued next spring to start the long path of changing proposals into legislation.

    Whether the final legislation will reflect any of the proposals contained in the report remains to be seen and, in the meantime, advice to clients remains the same.

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