Government signals social care costs cap in coalition review

David Cameron and Nick Clegg promise to unveil proposals to provide more help for people with long-term care costs in coming weeks, but charities slam lack of detail.

The government has signalled it will limit individuals’ liability for long-term care costs in the coalition’s mid-term review, published by David Cameron and Nick Clegg today. However, charities have slammed the lack of detail put forward by the government.

The forword to the review, which reflects on the coalitions’ record to date and future plans, promised “two big reforms to provide dignity in old age: an improved state pension that rewards saving, and more help with the costs of long-term care”.

Though further detail will be provided “in due course”, this is likely to involve introducing a cap on individual contributions to their long-term care costs to give people some protection against the risk of catastrophic care costs, as proposed by the Dilnot commission. The government is believed to support a cap of about £75,000, well above the £25,000-£50,000 limit suggested by the Dilnot commission.

“We were for hoping for clarity and certainty about the government’s plans for helping with the costs of care and are deeply disappointed that we got neither today,” said Age UK charity director general Michelle Mitchell. “Meanwhile the social care system is careering towards breaking point, starved of funds, with investment failing to keep pace with the growing needs of an ageing population.”

“Despite the rhetoric on the need to reform the rules on charging for social care we have yet again been left without any detail of how this will be done,” said Andrew Chidgey, director of external affairs at Alzheimer’s Society. “People with dementia and other conditions are being hit with huge bills for inadequate care or care that arrives too late. They deserve to know an end to this injustice is in sight.”

In its July 2011 report, the Dilnot commission, which was appointed by government, said that a cap outside the £25,000-£50,000 range would “not meet our criteria of fairness or sustainability”. The Treasury is believed to have concluded that the costs of Dilnot’s proposals would be unaffordable and a higher cap would be needed.

However, critics warn that a £75,000 cap would not give adequate protection from high care costs for people with moderate levels of wealth. Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham wrote on Twitter yesterday: “A care cap of £75,000 sounds like a reverse of the mansion tax. Those with modest homes will still lose them, but large properties protected.”

Dilnot also proposed raising the means-test threshold for residential care from £23,250 to £100,000, but it is not clear whether the government will also back this measure. Currently, people with assets of more than £23,250 receive no state funding for their residential care, though in some circumstances their housing wealth can be discounted from the calculation.

“To be considered fair, reform must include both a realistic cap and a substantial increase in the means-test threshold,” said charity Independent Age’s chief executive, Janet Morrison.