Is the Government Committed to Harnessing Spiralling Care Costs?


It may be somewhat reassuring to note that the Government recognises the need to limit exposure of excessive care costs to the elderly. In 2010, the Government paved the way for the establishment of the Dilnot Commission, which was asked to make recommendations on how to achieve an affordable and sustainable funding system for care and support for all adults in England.

Care of the Elderly - Care Home Fees

The Commission’s remit is to examine and provide deliverable recommendations on:
  • How best to meet the costs of care and support as a partnership between individuals and the state
  • How people could choose to protect their assets, especially their homes, against the cost of care
  • How, both now and in the future, public funding for the care and support system can be best used to meet care and support needs, and
  • How any option can be delivered, including an indication of the timescale for implementation, and its impact on local government (and the local government finance system), the NHS, and – if appropriate – financial regulation
One suggestion to reduce such ruinous exposure to care costs was advanced by former Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow. In a report he commented that winter fuel payments could be means-tested to help pay for care fees, resulting in a "fairer social care system". The report reveals that such an allowance could fund most of the £1.7billion cost of implementing reforms of elderly care in England.

The Commission itself has suggested the implementation of a cap on each individual’s care costs at £35,000 over their entire lifetime and argues that such a move would protect people from catastrophic care costs that result in them having to sell their homes.

On the whole, Government Ministers have taken a seemingly more cautious approach - a cap was the "right basis" for change but they needed to look at other cheaper options. On a positive note, if the introduction of a cap is refuted, can we expect to see some form of genuine and viable counter-proposal?

Mr Burstow suggests that the cap on the amount people should pay towards social care costs could be set at £60,000, rather than the £35,000 recommended by the Commission. However the amount of assets people could hold would rise to £100,000, a figure which currently rests at around £23,250 – so some compromise may well be on the cards.

Mr Burstow, said: "Social care isn't free, but it could be a lot fairer for those who have worked hard all their lives. By concentrating the winter fuel payment on those eligible for pension credit, we can pay for a cap on care costs."

The difficulty in granting eligibility for the winter fuel payment only to those eligible for pension credit would result in a possible 100,000 elderly people losing their current entitlement to the allowance in order to pay for the introduction of the proposed cap. As with the introduction of any new public initiative, something has to give.

Michelle Mitchell of Age UK summarised the conundrum stating that introducing a cap on social care costs would "lift one of the great fears of becoming older" but she urged caution over taking away other benefits from the elderly.

Capping care costs for an individual in care is undoubtedly an innovative concept from which the elderly and their loved ones would benefit, but the key question is how to fund it sensibly given the current financial difficulties facing the UK as a whole in the current climate.

We can only hope that the Government will press forward to determine how best this can be achieved. In the absence of full funding for care fees from the NHS which will only be granted under certain circumstances, to date this proposal appears to stand alone as a means to ensure people do not have to sell their homes to pay for care.

At Simpson Millar LLP Solicitors, we fight for individuals who should have their fees met by the NHS. Get in touch with our team of professionals who can advise you as to the possibility of securing full NHS funding for your or a loved one’s care costs.

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