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| 3 minutes read

Care costs, caps and confusion

At Labour's 1997 conference, Tony Blair announced that he did not want children "brought up in a country where the only way pensioners can get long-term care is by selling their home".

Ever since, the issue of funding the increasing cost of adult social care has proved a tricky issue on both sides of the political divide.

Back in 2010, the then Labour Government were forced to abandon a proposal of a levy on estates of up to £20,000, after it was dubbed a "death tax".

In July 2010, in the early days of the Coalition Government, the Dilnot Commission was tasked with making recommendations for a fairer system for funding social care. Their proposal - for a lifetime cap on the contribution individuals would be required to make to care costs, which they suggested should be set at £35,000 - made it into the Care Act 2014. Even in 2015, the Conservative manifesto continued to promise:

"We will cap charges for residential social care from April 2016 and also allow deferred payment agreements, so no one has to sell their home For the first time, individual liabilities will be limited, giving everyone the peace of mind that they will receive the care they need, and that they will be protected from unlimited costs if they develop very serious care needs – such as dementia. We will protect the NHS budget and we will prioritise funding for dementia research."

Shortly after the 2015 general election, however, the implementation of the cap was postponed from 2016 until 2020, leading many to fear that it had been kicked into the long grass.

Those fears appeared to have materialised last week, when the new Conservative manifesto set out its plans for care costs, which made no mention of a cap, instead proposing:

"First, we will align the future basis for means-testing for domiciliary care with that for residential care, so that people are looked a er in the place that is best for them. This will mean that the value of the family home will be taken into account along with other assets and income, whether care is provided at home, or in a residential or nursing care home.

Second, to ensure this is fair, we will introduce a single capital floor, set at £100,000, more than four times the current means test threshold. This will ensure that, no matter how large the cost of care turns out to be, people will always retain at least £100,000 of their savings and assets, including value in the family home.

Third, we will extend the current freedom to defer payments for residential care to those receiving care at home, so no-one will have to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for care."

This has led to much consternation in recent days, including in the right-wing media, about the imposition of potentially unlimited care costs, using up the entirety of an individual's capital assets, down to the "floor" of £100,000 (albeit that the payments might be deferred until after their death) amounting to a "dementia tax".

Today, however, launching the manifesto in Wales, the Prime Minister has stated that a post-election Green Paper would include a cap on costs. She has insisted that this does not represent a U-turn, but rather a "clarification" of the position, "to put an end to Jeremy Corbyn’s fake claims".

However, the failure to mention such a cap in the manifesto - or the discussions in the days since it was released - is surprising. In addition, the Prime Minister's comments today appear rather difficult to square with the subsequent paragraph in the manifesto, which explicitly distanced the proposals from those following the Dilnot Report:

"We consider it more equitable, within and across the generations, than the proposals following the Dilnot Report, which mostly benefitted a small number of wealthier people."

Much ink will no doubt be spilled in days to come, however, one thing is clear: that the issue of adult care costs is very much back in the limelight.

“So I want to make a further point clear. This manifesto says that we will come forward with a consultation paper, a government green paper. And that consultation will include an absolute limit on the amount people have to pay for their care costs,”


communitycare, community care & health