The delayed white paper on social care will be published today, but don’t expect it to clarify much about how pensioners can cover their care costs.
The document itself will announce loans administered by councils offering nominal interest rates to prevent elderly people having to sell their homes to cover the cost of their care. That loan would be paid back once that person dies and the house is sold.
But Labour’s Andy Burnham was out and about this morning pointing out that the white paper ‘is half a plan’. He’s right: the most important part of the reforms is missing. The paper will reiterate ministers’ support for a cap on the amount someone must contribute towards their care costs themselves, but will not specify the size of that cap, or any other details. The Dilnot Commission had recommended a lifetime cap of £35,000, but the rumour is that the Treasury was spooked by the £1.7bn annual cost to the Government – expected to rise to £3.5bn in time – and refused to give the cap the go-ahead until next year’s comprehensive spending review. Treasury sources have denied that this is the case.
The gamble that ministers are taking by setting out ‘half a plan’ is that they are seen to be dithering over what was a manifesto commitment to reform social care. In the 2010 manifesto, the Conservatives said they wanted a system that would ‘allow anyone to protect their home from being sold to fund residential care costs by paying a one-off insurance premium that is entirely voluntary’. So far, so good. But the manifesto also contained a pledge to ‘create a system which is based on choice’, and today’s white paper does not give the full picture of that system. The spending review seems rather far away at the moment, especially given the Tories can’t currently count on the support of the Liberal Democrats on anything, as senior figures in the party make public threats about ‘consequences’ of the failure of Lords reform.Tags: Social care, UK politics