Who are the winners and losers under Dilnot's social care proposals?

11th Feb 2013

The cap on care costs and higher means-test threshold are a welcome sign that the Government is taking responsibility for addressing care funding, says Emma Stone.

At the moment, society offers little protection to those who face catastrophic costs of care.

Neither politicians nor the public are minded to pay for social care through greatly-increased general taxation which would make social care universally free at the point of access (on a par with the NHS). Yet the costs of social care are rising - both for the state and for individuals who need it.

The combined measures of raising the means-test threshold and setting a cap on the lifetime costs of substantial care, excluding board and lodging costs, at £75k (2017 prices) will give greater protection to the assets of older home-owners who face very high care costs and increase clarity and certainty about what they will have to pay for their own care. Although many people will be in for a shock if they think the cap is equivalent to the total they will spend on care or support. It isn't.

The Government also hopes - and needs - the cap to encourage those of us who can to start saving for potential care costs in later life, as we would for a pension. Hence the reference to the financial services industry.

Social care funding is not only about old age - it is about adults of all ages. The proposals should give some peace of mind to some parents of disabled children who, on transition to adulthood, will have their eligible care costs paid for by the state.

But - and it is a big but - what is not yet clear, and will hopefully be part of the announcement, is how this will affect working-age adults who become disabled during adulthood. Given what we know about the links between disability, impairment, extra living costs, decreased earnings and savings potential, and unequal access to financial products - this is a key issue. The recent report on The Other Care Crisis (by five leading charities representing disabled people) highlighted this well.

What we also urgently need to know is what the prospects are for a better settlement for local governments so they can fund adequate levels of social care - including, and most significantly, investing in prevention, early intervention and support for those whose needs fall short of the ever-increasing thresholds for eligibility for care and support.

When JRF responded to the Dilnot proposals back in 2011 - we said then, and we still say now, that a sustainable system of funding social care will not come about if there is insufficient encouragement to invest in prevention and 'that bit of help'. That message is everywhere in the draft social care bill - but nowhere in the proposals mentioned in the media yesterday.

So the cap and the threshold are welcome measures; and a welcome sign that the Government is taking responsibility for addressing care funding. This is a start.