The government is to allow all elderly people to borrow their care costs against the value of their homes from 2015.
The Care & Support draft Bill, released today (11 July), introduces ‘universal deferred payments’ across all local authorities. This offers a loan with interest that is paid back once the person’s property is sold, either during their time in care or after they die.
The move is intended to prevent about 40,000 elderly people from having to sell their homes in order to pay for their care each year.
However, the government has failed to offer clarity about the overall system of social care funding, which was the subject of a major review led by economist Andrew Dilnot last year.
The review recommended a cap of around £35,000 on personal care costs, beyond which the state would pay. The government, though, remains divided on the plan – particularly given the extra £1.7 billion it is projected to cost the state each year.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley said today that ministers “agree in principle that a limit on the amount that people pay themselves for the long-term care they receive would be the right way forward”.
However, Lansley also confirmed that legislation towards this measure is to be delayed until at least the 2013-14 parliamentary session. It is thought the government is looking to water down some of Dilnot’s core proposals in order to reduce the overall cost.
Care campaigners responded to the white paper by increasing their calls for major reform of the funding system.
The NHS Confederation released a survey revealing that 66% of NHS leaders believe funding shortfalls in local authority spending have impacted on their services in the past 12 months. Of these, 92% said there were more delayed discharges from hospital, while 87% said there was greater demand for community services.
“Without reform, our health and social care systems are heading for collapse,” said Mike Farrar, the organisation's chief executive.
“For the sake of the NHS, local authorities, patients and carers, we all need a resolution now. The public need open and honest information about what costs in the future will be covered by the state and what costs will be covered by individuals.”
Despite the funding issue, the government claimed that its draft Bill is “the biggest reform of the care and support system since 1948”. The Bill, it said, will create a single law for adult care and support, replacing more than a dozen different pieces of legislation.
Its provisions include setting out in law that everyone, including carers, should have a personal budget as part of their “care and support plan”. It also claims to set out “clear legal entitlements” to care and support, and population-level duties on local authorities to provide clear information and advice.