Caring for our Future: Reforming what and how people pay for their care and support

30 October 2013

 In July 2013, the Government published a consultation paper on reforming the way people pay for social care. The Government proposals follow the ‘Dilnot principles’ as the basis for a new model of social care: namely financial protection for individuals through a cap (set at £72,000 from April 2016) on the total costs they will have to pay during their lifetime, and an extension of the means-tested threshold used in the financial assessment for people in residential care from the current £23,250 to £118,000. In addition, from April 2015 local authorities will be required to offer the option of a deferred payment to anyone who needs to sell their home to pay for residential care, enabling the fees to be paid from their estate.

The Association has responded to the consultation. While supporting the principle of a lifetime cap and an increase in the threshold, the response points out that much more needs to be done to assess the costs of the proposals and how they are to be funded. The problem is particularly acute in the North East, which has a higher than average percentage of the population aged over 65 years, and a well above average proportion of the population accessing social services. Further, social services have had to find their share of local government budget reductions. The new system of social care will be one of the biggest burdens that councils have to face, but at present we simply do not know if enough money will be made available to fund it. Cash-strapped councils will be in no position to meet any funding shortfalls and the whole system will fail if it is not adequately funded.

The Government has said it will provide £335m of transitional funding in 2015/16 to cover the costs of implementation of the cap and the requirement to offer deferred payments, but no analysis has been provided of the assumed additional costs or whether this funding will be sufficient to cover them.

New eligibility criteria are likely to increase the numbers of people who are eligible for support. Councils will be faced not only with increased costs of service provision but also with increased administrative costs, in commissioning packages of care, in carrying out assessments and monitoring people who are not eligible for support to ascertain how much they have spent to date on their care costs, so a cumulative figure can be calculated towards the cap. While councils are working toward early intervention and prevention with the aim of supporting people to remain independent for longer, the new system will encourage more people to approach social services for assessment and advice.

While the general direction of the proposals is supported, there are still many uncertainties and complexities that need to be resolved. The new system will impose substantial costs, on top of existing financial and demographic pressures, and there is no certainty that the system will be adequately funded. Given our higher levels of deprivation, lower incomes and higher rates of access to adult care services, there are real concerns that the North East will be particularly hard hit.

View the full ANEC response here.