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Nov 16 2011

Care in Crisis – special report by IBB Law

Castlebeck Care and Southern Cross – just two of the care companies who have hit the headlines in 2011. Horrific abuse was uncovered at one of Castlebeck’s homes for vulnerable adults, and Southern Cross, Britain’s largest care homes operator, went into administration, leaving its 31,000 residents uncertain as to their futures. While the facts differ, the question arises as to how much do we really care about how the vulnerable in our society are treated?

It is against this background that Andrew Dilnot was tasked by the government with looking at the way that the care and support system currently works in England. His report sets out the following recommendations for reforming the adult social care system.

  • Capping an individual’s lifetime contribution to care costs to £35,000, regardless of wealth.
  • Raising the threshold for means-tested support from £23,250 to £100,000.
  • Those with support needs that continue into adulthood should be immediately eligible for free state support to meet those needs.
  • Maintaining the payment of disability benefits to support and encourage independence, including re-branding of attendance allowance to improve take-up.
  • Charging for ongoing living costs (e.g. food and accommodation) within a care home environment, but capping such costs at £7,000-£10,000 per year.
  • Setting a national threshold for care eligibility to avoid the postcode lottery for care services.
  • Improving access to information and advice and investing in an awareness campaign.
  • Improving carers‘ assessments to take place alongside the assessment of the person being cared for, and providing better support for carers generally.
  • Improving the integration of adult social care with other services in the wider care and support system, Eg the NHS.
  • Collaboration between the government and the Financial Services Authority and other partners to develop greater support for those seeking information on financial planning for older age.

The Report has broadly been welcomed by commentators who would appear to agree with its opening key finding that the current adult social care funding system in England is not fit for purpose. Certainly, the Report positively addresses the concerns that many people have about their own future.

The Commission’s core proposal, and the one which will be the subject of most political discussion, is to ensure that no one would have to pay more than 30% of their assets and savings towards meeting their care needs.

This would be achieved by capping an individual’s care costs to £35,000 and increasing the threshold for means-tested support to £100,000. At the moment, the government does not appear to want to speed ahead with the reforms, committing only to a consultation period at this stage. It is clear however that action has to be taken and, whether the Dilnot reforms are adopted in full or in part, if at all, the Report is at least a sober analysis of the current social care system, and a worthy attempt at addressing people’s concerns about their future care and the funding of that care. It is most definitely a hook upon which to hang future discussions, but we are probably past the point of further prevarication, having reached a stage where affirmative action is not just advisable, but unavoidable.

More state funding is absolutely required – let us hope that the government retains the imagination to find ways of re-directing resources to this much needed area.

For more information, see www.ibblaw.co.uk.

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