The plan with no funding: Critics attack social care proposal

Calls for clarity drowned out the government’s message on social care today, as the coalition unveils its much-anticipated white paper.

The white paper, set to define ways to salvage a social care system “in crisis”, is expected to include major overhauls of the current arrangements.

Yet debate on the content of the bill is expected to be overshadowed by arguments over what it is missing: a concrete funding plan.

“Today’s proposals are meaningless without the money to make them a reality,” shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said.

“The government is failing to face up to England’s care crisis.”

Many argue that funding decisions are key to the success of social care reform, as an already strained safety net is set to support an increasing number of people in coming years.

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the next two decades will see a 50% increase in the number of 70+ year olds in the UK.

The three main parties tried to come to an agreement on reform before the last general election, but the Tories walked away from negotiations and attacked Labour for proposing a ‘death tax’.

Emphasising the need for clarity about how government will deal with the funding crisis, Michelle Mitchell of Age UK said: “The proposals will not live up to ambition without the solid foundation of a fair and sustainable funding structure.

“We need the government to make it clear how reforms will be funded and set out a clear timetable.”

Local Government Association chairman, Sir Merrick Cockell, agreed. “There is an immediate crisis in social care which needs to be urgently addressed now,” he said.

“No-one would disagree that care should focus on an individual’s needs, but attempts to improve the quality of care are meaningless if there is no money for councils to provide these services.”

The funding proposal thought by many to be the most promising—a cap on the amount of resources an individual must spend on their own care—will not be mentioned in the white paper, government sources told the BBC.

The suggested cap of £35,000, advocated by the independent Dilnot report last year, has been heavily debated across party lines.

The Dilnot report argued that such a cap would both protect government from astronomical care costs and encourage individuals to take out social care insurance to help cover their contribution.

NHS statistics suggest the average lifetime cost of social care is £30,000, with one in ten individuals facing care of £100,000.

Despite criticism about the lack of concrete solutions in the paper, health secretary Lansley reiterated his support for the paper and its proposals.

“There are a number of big questions. I hope we will offer some real positive answers,” he told the BBC.

The health secretary said he supported a cap “in principle” but that the details of funding such a cap need further refinement.

Another controversial policy anticipated to be in the white paper is a “universal deferred payment” program. This program would allow those needing care to borrow money to pay for care and put off paying back this loan until after their death.

These “pay when you die” policies currently offered by some councils are designed to decrease the number of the elderly who must sell their homes to pay for nursing home care.

The paper is also expected to recommend more consistency in the services provided by local councils, measures to allow individuals control over the type of care they receive and an increase in the amount of assets someone can hold and still qualify for council-supported care.