Health secretary Jeremy Hunt says the Government is committed to implementing the Dilnot cap on social care costs “as soon as we are able”.
The Dilnot Commission’s report, published in July 2011, called for a cap on individuals’ lifetime contributions to social care costs of between £25,000 and £50,000, with £35,000 the recommended figure. When that cap is reached, people would be eligible for full state support.
The cap would not cover “hotel costs” of care funding such as accommodation and food but the commission has called for a standard limit on general living costs in care of between £7,000 and £10,000 a year.
Currently the means-tested threshold where people are required to fund the full costs of their care is £23,250. The commission recommends increasing this to £100,000.
Speaking today at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Hunt said: “We need to face up to some hard truths about how we are going to pay for social care. I am proud that next year’s care and support bill will mean that no one is forced to sell their house in their lifetime to pay for care.
“A historic change. But we also want to go further and implement the Dilnot cap on social care costs as soon as we are able.”
The wording of the speech, and lack of firm commitment to a timetable, is likely to raise concern from industry campaigners who are worried the Government is looking to delay the reforms or kick them into the long grass.
In July, prime minister David Cameron accepted the principle of a cap but questioned how the Government might pay the estimated £1.7bn annual price tag.
The Government has already given a commitment to introduce the Dilnot cap but last month new care services minister Norman Lamb said he is is “no rush” to push ahead with the reforms. Speaking on Radio 5, the North Norfolk MP Lamb, who replaced Paul Burstow in the recent ministerial reshuffle, refused to give a timetable for the reforms after accepting Dilnot’s capped cost principle.
Last month, former care services minister Paul Burstow attacked the Treasury for having no “sense of urgency” over the reforms.
Symponia joint founder and director Janet Davies says: “I just wish the Government would do something. There is never any substance behind the comments. We never get a date commitment. We are fast coming to the time when this coalition is coming for election and this will be put on the back burner. The Government needs to be bold and give us a date.”
Partnership director of corporate affairs Jim Boyd says: “Nothing has really changed. The problem is this has always been subject to finding the funding for this and there is a concern that it will get kicked into the long grass, because it is a very complex issue for politicians to address.
“At the heart of it, it is about a politician telling people, before an election, that people who thought they never had to pay for social care will now have to pay for it. No politician wants to be the one to do that.”