In my previous post I suggested that all the signs were there that Dilnot would be put on hold. Yesterday our suspicions were confirmed as a letter from the Care and Support Minister to the Conservative Chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, stated that Government would delay, until 2020, the implementation of the cap on care costs, the duty on local authorities under Section 18(3) of the Care Act to meet the eligible needs of self-funders in care homes and the appeals system which was proposed in the consultation earlier this year. It is important to note, however, that there was no mention of delaying the increase to the capital thresholds, above which people must pay the full cost of their care from their assets, to £118,000 for those in residential care and £27,000 for those in the community from April 2016. All bets are off about that!
The reasons set out by the Minister for this decision were that the cap should not be implemented in isolation, but in a way that ensured a sustainable health and care system, and that concerns expressed by Cllr Seccombe, on behalf of the LGA, which represents all England councils, and others, including the National Audit Office, had ultimately led to the postponement of Phase 2 of the reforms.
The news spread like wildfire as news outlets picked up on the story, and it was even announced on news bulletins – notable in my view because social care rarely hits the headlines – but this goes to demonstrate the high profile of this element of the reforms as stated in my previous post. Seccombe warned on the Today programme that councils were already struggling with budgetary pressures and the second phase of the Care Act would need to be fully funded, otherwise these pressures would begin to be shunted on to the NHS. This echoed the concerns she had expressed in a letter to the Health Secretary on 1 July, in which she suggested that the money allocated for implementing Dilnot should instead be used to plug the £700m shortfall councils were already facing in social care.
A collective sigh of relief will no doubt have been heard in councils across England, not because it was felt that the Dilnot reforms were a bad thing in principle, but because of the implementation issues councils have been grappling with, and uncertainties about the true costs of the cap. However, if the aim was to bury this controversial news on a quiet Friday afternoon (it was a Conservative manifesto pledge that people would not pay more than £72,000 towards their care from April 2016), Ministers will be disappointed. Former LibDem Health Minister Norman Lamb branded the announcement “an outrageous betrayal” of the electorate while Liz Kendall, the shadow care minister, called it “a shameful broken promise from David Cameron, and devastating news for older people and their families who have been trying to plan for the future”.
Putting back the Dilnot reforms indefinitely would have been a very brave thing to have done, considering it was the Conservative-led coalition government which had originally asked the Dilnot commission to review the funding of care and support in England, but putting the implementation back until the next Parliament (rather than the two-year delay the LGA had suggested) is for all intents and purposes the same thing.
In my next post I will be looking in more detail at the implications of the announcement for individuals who may need care and support, self-funding or otherwise, and their families, and the sector. Stay tuned!