By Leon A Smith
July 7, 2011
The 4th of July is a memorable date primarily because it marks the anniversary of American Independence. Yet in the care sector it is likely that this will be a memorable date for another other reason - the publication of the recommendations of the Dilnot Commission on funding of long term care for the elderly were made public. - although in one sense it may not carry that much significance as it had been so widely leaked over the preceding 3-4 weeks.
The headlines from the Dilnot recommendations are that a “cap” should be placed on any individual’s liability for funding their own care. It has been suggested that whilst this could be up to £50,000, a more likely cap is to be £35,000. What could be simpler? Unfortunately the headlines from this report do not clearly articulate the full picture and thrust of these recommendations. The small print tells us that the £35,000 life time “cap” applies only to the care element of a stay in a care home. It does not include the accommodation and/or “hotel “ costs which might include catering, cleaning, heating, lighting and a myriad of other costs. It was suggested indicatively that these costs might be up to a further £10,000 per annum – a figure which in my view is unrealistically low. This therefore means that somebody coming into a care home who met government or local authority criteria is limited to an outlay of £35,000, plus let’s say if they have lived in a care home for 3 years (a realistic average) a further £10,000 per annum. For the record therefore the “cap” is not £35,000 – it’s £65,000! Moreover, the sum of say £10,000 will effectively wipe out pension and/or other benefit entitlements which most people will receive.
Having said all of this, many of us in the care sector warmly welcome the recommendations from Mr Dilnot’s commission. They have clearly grasped the issues and they have clearly listened both to the public and to the professionals in the sector. The key point however is what the Coalition government are now going to do with these recommendations. Are they going to be accepted in full? Is implementation going to be delayed and/or are the recommendations simply going to be diluted.
At the risk of repetition it is vital that the government once and for all graso the nettle and acts upon these recommendations. Realistically the recommendations will not all be accepted. For example, the suggestion that the cut off point to be eligible for local authority funding be raised from £23,250 to £100,000. This is simply not going to happen. There is a suggestion from Dilnot that the additional costs involved in his recommendations should be borne through taxation. How can this happen? Do we seriously think that the Coalition government are going to increase taxation in order to fund the care of older people. I think not! Yet in a climate of cuts in every direction which we look, how are we going to find the sum of £1.7bn which it is estimated will be the cost of implementation.
Cynicism is not an attractive personality trait but it is one I clearly admit that I possess. Yet in reality and from past experience with “unbounded optimism” – which is also not an expression that I think I would use in this context – I very much hope that I will be proved to be wrong!