Limit on cost of care delayed or abandoned?

Former Care Minister, Norman Lamb, believes that the Government’s recent announcement to push back the limit of £72,000 on the cost of care, from April 2016 to 2020, means that the reforms are being abandoned and not delayed.

The £72,000 cap was due to be introduced as part of the second phase of the Care Act. It was delayed after councils wrote to the Department of Health asking for the launch to be deferred due to the funding pressures faced by local authorities. This is despite the cap forming a key manifesto commitment for the Government.

Speaking to the press, Lamb said that hopes the reforms will still be introduced are “naïve”.

“This is abandonment, and not delay. It would be naïvety in the extreme to regard this as a delay.

“It doesn’t require much complex thinking to realise that if the funding pressures are such that they felt they had to delay from 2016, it is unlikely to be any easier in 2020.

“This is a clear indication that the Tories have abandoned it and indeed, abandoned the commitment they made in their manifesto just three months ago.”

The current situation is that only those with under £23,250 in savings get help towards the cost of care, but the reforms would have allowed support for those with assets below £118,000, or £27,000 if a close relative lives in the property.

A Department of Health spokeswoman insists the Government remains “fully committed” to the implementation of the cap in 2020, but others are not convinced.

Janet Davies, Managing Director of long-term care organisation Symponia, says she is “positive” the plans have been axed.

“It has been no secret that this was a coalition sweetener and George Osborne didn’t like it, and made no bones about it,” she says.

“It’s possibly even good news because the introduction of the care cap stopped some people planning ahead and it was never the case that people could spend £72,000 and that would be it.”

One school of thought is that at £72,000 the cap was too high and failed to get enough people thinking about their care. Without public demand, the insurance industry hasn’t got on board.

Perhaps more interestingly is that the cap (along with its accompanying measures) was expected to have cost in the region of £6 billion over the next five years.

Some in local government have privately questioned all along whether, if that amount of money is to be put into the system, the best use of it is something that limits the liabilities of the wealthier groups in society.

April 2020 – the new date for implementation – will, in all likelihood, be just a few weeks away from a general election. It will mean the Tories will have been in power for nearly a decade yet still be trying to implement a tricky reform that was on the agenda when they first took office.

Aviva long-term care Marketing Manager Brian Fisher says the delay should allow Government to go back and re-evaluate its plans.

“This is an opportunity for the Government to have a really good think about what is important to the consumer so they get a good deal out of state provisions and they understand it’s something they are going to have to take responsibility for. The cap never achieved that.”

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