Magazine article Public Finance

Dilnot's Not for Diluting

Magazine article Public Finance

Dilnot's Not for Diluting

Article excerpt

The Commission on Funding of Care and Support, chaired by Andrew Dilnot, reported last July. It recommended long overdue changes to the system for funding long-term care in England, which at the time were widely supported. The government promised an early response in the form of a white paper on social care.

Dilnofs report, Fairer funding for all, proposed raising the meanstested threshold above which people become liable for their full care costs from £23,250 to £100,000. It also recommended capping individual liability at £35,000. After that, the state would pay. If accepted, these changes would cost an extra £2.8bn by 2020/21 and £3.6bn by 2025/26.

These are modest proposals but there are already worrying signs of political backtracking. It now appears that the social care white paper, due to be published by Easter, might not even take Dilnot's recommendations on board. Instead, a 'progress report' is promised on their implementation.

This is all the more disturbing given that the commission's proposals seriously under-estimate the actual future costs of funding care for an ageing population. Numbers of over-65s are projected to grow by 50% during the next 20 years, with those aged 90-plus almost trebling. As a new report from the Strategic Society Centre policy think-tank spells out, the government will need to spend an extra £8.3bn just to maintain social care services in England at current levels. When spending on social care and disabilityrelated benefits are combined, an additional £11.5bn will be needed by 2025 just to maintain current levels of provision. This is equivalent to about 2% of current taxation revenue.

Meanwhile, current funding for social care is inadequate. According to Age UK, between 2005/06 and 2010/11 demand for social care for older people outstripped expenditure by about 9%. Despite the population ageing, the number of adults using residential and home care services has actually fallen by about 20% since 2003; the number receiving local authority-funded care at home decreased from 489,000 in 2004 to 299,000 in 2009. This is largely because local authorities have raised eligibility thresholds for publicly funded care. Current spending cuts will increase these funding pressures. …

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