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Changes to social care cap rules could leave ‘poorest people worse off’, critics say

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The financial support people get from local authorities to cover their care will not count towards the new cap on costs, according to revised plans published by the government.

Critics say that changes to the rules will leave the “poorest pensioners” having to pay the same for their care as the wealthiest people.

In September, the prime minister announced that £2.5bn raised from the new health and social care levy will be used to pay for the “Dilnot proposals” to implement a £86,000 cap on the amount anyone in England would pay for social care.

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He also said that those with assets between £20,000 and £100,000 will be eligible for some means testing support.

The cap was expected to include all care costs including means-tested funding, but on Wednesday (November 17) the Department of Health and Social Care published a tweak to the plan, stating that only private contributions will go towards it.

This means that someone with a £90,000 home who qualifies for council help could pay the same for their care as someone with a £250,000 property who does not quality for means-tested assistance.

Liz Kendall, Labour’s Shadow Social Care Minister said the cap on care costs was a “bigger con than we initially thought”.

“We already knew most people won’t hit the cap because it doesn’t cover board and lodging in care homes, and that at £86,000 the cap would still mean many people will have to sell their homes to pay for their care – against everything Boris Johnson promised,” she said.

“It has now been revealed that the poorest pensioners will have to pay even more, something Andrew Dilnot – who proposed the cap – explicitly ruled out because it was so unfair. That this Tory Government has failed to be straight with those who’ve given so much to our country is a total disgrace, but utterly unsurprising. Our elderly people deserve better.”

Sir Andrew Dilnot will be appearing in front of the Treasury Committee today, where he will give evidence to MPs on social care reform.

Dr Jane Townson, CEO of the Homecare Association, said: “The Homecare Association has long argued for reform of the social care system to ensure: fairness; clarity of responsibility between State and citizen for paying for care; accessibility of care for all who need it; greater focus on improving outcomes; conditions which encourage innovation; and fair reward of the workforce, to enable us to meet current and future population needs. 

“After the initial announcement in September 2021, we were disappointed that the proposed plans addressed only asset protection and not the wider reform required. We were, however, pleased that the government appeared willing to address issues of fairness and clarity by introducing a cap and changing thresholds for the means test. The document published yesterday suggests that the approach to asset protection will not be as fair as possible. Under the proposals, those with less wealth appear to have less protection of their assets than those with greater wealth. 

“We call on the government to walk the talk on ‘levelling up’ and ensure fairness for all. We also want to see meaningful action on the wider reform agenda, which needs to be adequately funded.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are committed to delivering world-leading social care across the country and are investing an additional £5.4 billion over three years, which will allow us to begin a comprehensive adult social care reform programme.

“These charging reforms will mean everyone is better off. Compared to the current system more people will be supported with their social care costs, have greater certainty over what they need to pay and receive higher quality care.”

Tags : cap on care costshealth and social care levysocial care reform
Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke