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Politics no image

Published on August 20th, 2012 | by Kirsty McKellar
Image © [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="566"] The Government announces plan to limit individual costs of care © Jermboytold3[/caption]   Last month it was announced that Government was to shelve plans to limit the cost of social care, much the same as House of Lords reform plans and other contentious reforms that have been kicked into the long grass. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley insisted that this was because of the estimated £2 billion cost to the Treasury. This was despite the Dilnot Commission recommending a £35,000 cap on the cost of elderly care. Therefore the plans were excluded from last month’s Social Care White Paper, which proposed that councils would offer long-term deferred payments to the elderly to help fund social care. However the Dilnot report appears to be the only plan that has broad cross-party support and so perhaps it should be no surprise that Cameron has now pledged his support for the reforms. He informed the Cabinet of his U-turn just before the summer recess began, and the Liberal Democrats are fully behind the idea as they have been pushing it for a while. The new system will be formally announced in the autumn in a much-needed coalition relaunch and will be included in the new Care and Support Bill to be implemented in 2017. We have been promised reforms of the social care system ever since the government came to power and they have not delivered, prompting widespread criticism. Crucial reforms like this are arguably a ‘political prize’ for a government that is in desperate need of some good news and needs to be seen to be doing something for its legacy. So are these changes simply a quick fix that will not pay off in the long-term? Tory MP John Redwood seems to think so, along with Andrew Lansley (Health Secretary) who thinks that Dilnot’s plans were rightfully shelved as it would cost the Treasury £2.1 billion for the first year, rising to £4.2 billion annually by 2005 due to Britain’s increasingly ageing population. Hence the Treasury is expected to argue that the plan should be paid for out of the general NHS budget, however this could spark criticism over money being taken away from hospitals etc. Dilnot’s recommendations included the ‘asset threshold’, over which people would have to contribute to the cost of their care, would rise from £23,350 to £100,000. And also the popular £35,000 ‘lifetime cap’ on costs, after which the state would pay the excess thereby saving people from having to sell assets. While Number 10 officials have insisted that the government is still exploring all of its options, Nick Clegg’s enthusiasm has given away the coalitions intentions to rethink their rash dismissal of the Dilnot report. Last week he stated that ‘we should go further and faster to deliver a properly funded system of social care for the elderly’. The U-turn has been met with popular support. The Independent reported that last year around 40,000 people were forced to pay for care; a room in a care home now costs around £26,000 per year and one in four have bills of more than £50,000. These kinds of statistics are shocking, showing that the problem has thus far been ignored, and so if a system can be negotiated whereby the state can help out it may be worth the cost. Especially as the population continues to age, the number of over 65’s is predicted to grow by 50% and the number over the age of 90 is expected to treble. Dilnot described the current system as ‘nuts’, and has now expressed his delight that ‘significant steps’ are being taken to find a basis for a sustainable system (BBC). However, Conservative MP John Redwood has been extremely critical of the proposals. In a recent paper he stated that middle class families will have to pay up to 90% of the cost of having a relative in a care home and argued strongly that the cap would only apply to care costs excluding the bills that families would have to pay. He also accused the scheme of using taxpayers’ money to fund a cap that would only benefit well-off families who want to protect their inheritance. Dilnot has eagerly denied this, and despite some criticism the U-turn is largely popular. Michelle Mitchell, director of Age UK, believes that without this radical reform the system ‘faces collapse’. After a series of policy U-turns including House of Lords reform, a cap on charitable donations  and the pasty tax, perhaps the government is keen to implement a popular policy before the party conference season starts in September.  

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Coalition set for U-turn on elderly care

The Government announces plan to limit individual costs of care © Jermboytold3

 

Last month it was announced that Government was to shelve plans to limit the cost of social care, much the same as House of Lords reform plans and other contentious reforms that have been kicked into the long grass. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley insisted that this was because of the estimated £2 billion cost to the Treasury. This was despite the Dilnot Commission recommending a £35,000 cap on the cost of elderly care. Therefore the plans were excluded from last month’s Social Care White Paper, which proposed that councils would offer long-term deferred payments to the elderly to help fund social care. However the Dilnot report appears to be the only plan that has broad cross-party support and so perhaps it should be no surprise that Cameron has now pledged his support for the reforms. He informed the Cabinet of his U-turn just before the summer recess began, and the Liberal Democrats are fully behind the idea as they have been pushing it for a while. The new system will be formally announced in the autumn in a much-needed coalition relaunch and will be included in the new Care and Support Bill to be implemented in 2017.

We have been promised reforms of the social care system ever since the government came to power and they have not delivered, prompting widespread criticism. Crucial reforms like this are arguably a ‘political prize’ for a government that is in desperate need of some good news and needs to be seen to be doing something for its legacy. So are these changes simply a quick fix that will not pay off in the long-term? Tory MP John Redwood seems to think so, along with Andrew Lansley (Health Secretary) who thinks that Dilnot’s plans were rightfully shelved as it would cost the Treasury £2.1 billion for the first year, rising to £4.2 billion annually by 2005 due to Britain’s increasingly ageing population. Hence the Treasury is expected to argue that the plan should be paid for out of the general NHS budget, however this could spark criticism over money being taken away from hospitals etc. Dilnot’s recommendations included the ‘asset threshold’, over which people would have to contribute to the cost of their care, would rise from £23,350 to £100,000. And also the popular £35,000 ‘lifetime cap’ on costs, after which the state would pay the excess thereby saving people from having to sell assets.

While Number 10 officials have insisted that the government is still exploring all of its options, Nick Clegg’s enthusiasm has given away the coalitions intentions to rethink their rash dismissal of the Dilnot report. Last week he stated that ‘we should go further and faster to deliver a properly funded system of social care for the elderly’. The U-turn has been met with popular support. The Independent reported that last year around 40,000 people were forced to pay for care; a room in a care home now costs around £26,000 per year and one in four have bills of more than £50,000. These kinds of statistics are shocking, showing that the problem has thus far been ignored, and so if a system can be negotiated whereby the state can help out it may be worth the cost. Especially as the population continues to age, the number of over 65’s is predicted to grow by 50% and the number over the age of 90 is expected to treble. Dilnot described the current system as ‘nuts’, and has now expressed his delight that ‘significant steps’ are being taken to find a basis for a sustainable system (BBC).

However, Conservative MP John Redwood has been extremely critical of the proposals. In a recent paper he stated that middle class families will have to pay up to 90% of the cost of having a relative in a care home and argued strongly that the cap would only apply to care costs excluding the bills that families would have to pay. He also accused the scheme of using taxpayers’ money to fund a cap that would only benefit well-off families who want to protect their inheritance. Dilnot has eagerly denied this, and despite some criticism the U-turn is largely popular. Michelle Mitchell, director of Age UK, believes that without this radical reform the system ‘faces collapse’. After a series of policy U-turns including House of Lords reform, a cap on charitable donations  and the pasty tax, perhaps the government is keen to implement a popular policy before the party conference season starts in September.

 

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About the Author

Kirsty McKellar

Kirsty has recently graduated from the University of Liverpool, obtaining a degree in Politics and Criminology (BA Hons). She is mostly interested in British politics, particularly the policies of the current coalition government. After completing her dissertation on the reasons for youth voter apathy with a First classification, she has developed a keen interest in young people’s relationship with and participation in politics. Kirsty has also undertaken some valuable work experience with her local MP, Esther McVey. She enjoyed the experience of working in local politics with Members of Parliament and Wirral Borough Council, helping to organise a charity event for the Big Lottery Fund. Kirsty intends to move to London this year to pursue a career in politics and social research, as it is something that she has always been passionate about.



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