”Kick a minister” over care reform, says Dilnot

The author of a government-commissioned report on the future of the care system has urged ministers to find the “guts” to get on and implement it.

The Dilnot Commission proposals for the future funding of social care could be implemented for “a perfectly plausible amount of money”, report author and economist Andrew Dilnot told the English Community Care Association conference.

Putting a cap of £35,000 on the amount individuals would be expected to contribute to their care costs and reforming means-testing of contributions under that limit would remove the “terror” people felt that ill health in old age would mean them losing their homes and all their savings, he said. “We have to have the courage to take these steps and take them now,” Dilnot said. “We have to say as a sector, come on – this matters. This really, really matters.

“The way in which we care for older people and for working-age people with care needs is a sign of how decent a society we can be. Let’s show that even in difficult times we have the courage to do something bold, that could be world-leading in terms of how to get a partnership between individuals and the state that works.”

Dilnot said that querying whether the nation could afford social care reform was “a really stupid question” when the total £2bn cost of reform amounted to an eighth of one per cent of national income.

And rhetoric about the burden of an ageing population was “terrible nonsense”, he said. “Our economy and society are not incompetent when faced with challenges – it just takes adjustment. We don’t need to be panic-stricken; we are perfectly capable of looking after older people.”

A shake-up of means-testing to provide tapered support would be an essential part of reform, he added, condemning a “crazy” system under which people with assets above £23,000 “fell off a cliff” in terms of benefits entitlement.

“Current means-testing is nuts – it provides every incentive to cheat,” he said. Part of the reason the current social care system was hard to understand and navigate was because “the system stinks”.

“No politician wants to stand up and talk about this because it’s not great – the funding structure is crazy. We need better treatment of carers, we need a decent assessment process and national eligibility standards. But the overall, powerful, crucial thing to recognise is that there is a way forward.”

Dilnot said it was time to be “less polite” in urging reform. “Write to your MP, contact your local paper and kick any minister that you know,” he told delegates.