Uncertainty reigns. Or at least when it comes to today’s Dilnot Report into social care
it does. We largely know what measures will be contained within its pages: a higher threshhold for council-funded care, but a cap (of around
£35,000) on how much individuals ought to be liable for. What’s less clear is how the government will respond. Far from welcoming the report wholeheartedly – as has been the recent form with
these things – there are signs that the government is set to resist some of its recommendations. Andrew Lansley "http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/fcf1e066-a5a6-11e0-83b2-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1R70iKn9n">spoke cagily of it yesterday, hinting that the cap was proving particularly difficult in Coalition Land.
George Osborne is said to have concerns at the
£2 billion cost of the cap, and at how that money will be raised. And a Downing Street source "http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8614651/David-Cameron-Taxes-must-rise-to-reform-elderly-care.html">tells the Telegraph that, thanks to the costs of the matter, social care may be
tossed into the "medium length grass" for now.
As it happens, the political process seems to be geared for prevarication. Ed Miliband yesterday offered to enter into talks with the coalition on the Dilnot Report and its associated costs, in a
bid to construct – once and for all – a longlife system that all parties can be satisfied with. And it seems that the Tories, in particular, are happy to oblige. For one, talks mean time, and more
of it. And they also mean that the toxic responsibility of funding a new system, via tax hikes or spending cuts, falls on all the leaders’ shoulders.
But there is certainly room for the situation to become more urgent, more angry. The Lib Dems regard the reform of social care as one of their defining issues, and are likely to push the Chancellor
to stump up as much cash as necessary to fix what is currently a broken system. There will be some Tories who don’t wish their side to be seen as the roadblocks to another reform. And then there’s
the persistent memory of what happened the last time the three parties tried to talk on this: a fug of argument, counterargument, self-jusification and evasion, which culminated in one of the
most dispiriting episodes in the Tories’ election campaign. With
Osborne jostling for savings, and Miliband for attention, a repeat is certainly possible this time around.