Government unveils team tasked with finding ways to fund long-term care

Ministers have unveiled the membership of the commission tasked with producing a formula for reform of long-term adult care funding, but have made clear that a compulsory insurance system would be off limits.

The three-member commission, to report within a year, will be chaired by Andrew Dilnot, an Oxford economist and former head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

He will be joined by Dame Jo Williams, chair of the Care Quality Commission, and Labour peer Lord Warner, a former health minister and director of social services in Kent. He was sharply critical of the Labour government’s plans for a national care service.

The commission has been told to consider “a range of funding ideas including both voluntary insurance and partnership schemes”, but its remit leaves little doubt that compulsory insurance would be unacceptable after the Conservative campaign against Labour’s so-called “death taxes”.

The remit specifies that the commission should look at “how people should choose to protect their homes against the cost of care”. It omits Labour’s white paper from the list of earlier studies that the commission should take into account.

The commission has to produce a system for England able to cope with an expected increase over the next 20 years of 1.7 million people with a care need. This is largely, but not entirely, attributable to the ageing population, with a projected doubling of the number of people aged 85 or over by 2026.

The inclusion in the commission team of Williams, a former chief executive of learning disability Mencap, will please those who have feared that younger disabled people would be marginalised in the policy-making process.

Andrew Lansley, health secretary, has told the commission that its recommendations must reflect principles of choice and fairness and must offer value for money and be sustainable in the context of an ageing population. Crucially, they must “be consistent with the government’s deficit reduction plan”.

The remit also requires the commission to take account of the government’s welfare reform plans, examining “the interaction between the social care system and the GB-wide benefit system”.

This suggests that the commission may re-examine disability living allowance and attendance allowance, despite the Tories’ fierce criticism of Labour for having contemplated merging such benefits into discretionary personal budgets.

Dilnot said: “With more people living longer, we urgently need to find a fair and sustainable way to pay for the care which many of us will need. There are not going to be any easy answers, and I know that difficult decisions will have to be made.”

The commission’s composition was widely welcomed. Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK, the leading older people’s charity, said: “We look forward to working with the commission on the Herculean task of finding radical but workable solutions for funding our care system.

“Amidst an uncertain economic climate, an ever-increasing number of people requiring care, and rising care costs, millions of people in England are literally counting on the commission to ensure we have a care system that is fair and affordable to all who need it.”

Martin Green, chief executive of the English Community Care Association, representing larger care providers, said it was imperative that the commission acted swiftly.

“It is our hope that this commission will not revisit the debates about options, but will come up with a conclusion that will deliver the necessary funding that is required for long-term sustainability and innovation in care.”