Care funding commission rules out compulsory insurance

Commission gives public hint that compulsion won’t feature in its recommendations to the government about how to fund care of elderly and disabled people

Compulsory insurance has been ruled out by the government commission investigating reform of the funding of long-term care of elderly and disabled people, commission member Lord Warner has indicated.

Despite a clear need to get people to make provision for care and support in their old age, the idea of compulsion “doesn’t feel to me as though it fits the public mood music at the moment, or the mood music for the foreseeable future”, Warner said today, in one of the first public signals of the commission’s thinking.

The three-member commission, headed by economist Andrew Dilnot, has hitherto insisted it is considering all options to meet the costs of care of the ageing population. An estimated one in five of today’s 65-year-olds will need care costing at least £50,000.

Addressing a seminar organised by the Association of British Insurers and the thinktank Reform, Warner said the commission would be “extremely wary” of any solution involving compulsion, as “the social support for that approach is simply not there”.

The commission – the third member of which is Dame Jo Williams – is due to report to ministers by July. It was set up by the coalition government after controversy before the general election over how Labour would have funded its reform plans. The Conservatives accused Labour of wanting to impose “death taxes” on people’s estates.

Warner, a Labour peer, said the key to reform would inevitably be “a partnership between the state, individuals and families”, adding: “Any fantasies about 100% universal state provision – forget it.”

Arguing that people should be given “the opportunity to be protected against the costs of care and support”, he said: “There is good evidence now coming through in the latest social surveys that people no longer expect the state to sort out all their problems from the cradle to the grave. We are not in the 1940s any more.”

Some experts warned that reform would fail without an element of compulsion. Richard Humphries, senior fellow at the King’s Fund health and social care thinktank, said: “All the evidence says that people will not voluntarily insure for the full cost of care.”

In its evidence to the commission, the King’s Fund is calling for the state to meet 50% of people’s care costs, with those able to do so paying a compulsory charge or contribution towards the balance.