As the case for reform becomes impossible to ignore, a cap on costs is at best part of the solutionby Natasha Curry / September 7, 2020 / Leave a comment
The government delivering on its commitment to overhaul England’s failing social care system was one of the biggest tests it faced even before the pandemic. Now that Covid-19 has brutally exposed flaws in the current system, reform has become even more urgent. The sector is dangerously underfunded and understaffed. Many vulnerable people do not get the help they need. Many who do have to pay punitive sums from their own pockets.
Leaks and briefings about planned reforms are now increasingly frequent—perhaps a promising sign of action ahead. Often mentioned is a possible social care cap that would set a maximum amount any individual would have to pay towards their care in their lifetime. First proposed by Andrew Dilnot in 2011 as an answer to the same dilemmas facing the Cameron government, it would offer certainty and security and protect those of us unfortunate enough to have very significant care needs from catastrophic costs. A cap of this kind is actually already lying dormant on the statute books, having been passed as part of the Care Act 2014 but then never implemented. Although a cap would be welcome, in isolation it would not be enough to fully resolve the situation.
The cap is frequently, and misleadingly, described as a “funding solution.” In fact, despite the benefits for individuals facing high costs, it would fail to raise any extra money overall and actually cost the system more, as the state would be meeting the care costs of many more people who would only start to pay once they have spent up to the cap. Without an accompanying revenue-raising mechanism (such as tax), it leaves wide open the tricky question of how to get more money into this underfunded sector.
It also critically matters exactly what the cap covers. For example, would only personal care costs count? In such a scenario, whatever you paid towards getting washed, dressed, fed or toileted would be capped at the maximum, beyond which it would be free. But hiring someone to put the bins out or accompany you to a lunch club—wider “social care”—would not be covered. For someone who needs little personal care but does need help going out and about, a cap like this would not protect them from high care costs.
Then there’s the question about what happens to…