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Thursday, 26 July 2018

Council leaders call to cap care fees at £50,000 to allow most people to benefit

Written by Jennifer McKiernan

A cap on care fees should be set as low as £50,000 to allow most people to benefit, new figures from England's largest councils show.

The cap on care costs is intended to allow pensioners to pass on an inheritance after paying a limited amount for social care in their own home.

Plans to introduce a cap of £72,000 were outlined by former prime minister David Cameron in 2014 but dropped in the 2017 Conservative manifesto.

However, the plans to axe the cap were dubbed a dementia tax and quickly ditched, with a delayed green paper including a cap now expected this autumn.

Now, the County Councils Network (CCN) has published a report backing a lower cap for pensioners, alongside increased funding for social care from tax rises and means-tested benefits including winter fuel payments.

CCN health and social care spokesman David Williams (pictured) appealed to ministers to "be bold" in looking at funding options for the cap as "the status quo is no longer an option".

The Hertfordshire County Council leader said county areas were struggling to provide social care after some of the biggest cuts in core government grants since 2010.

He said: "These pressures will only continue to intensify in the coming years, with counties home to the largest and fastest-growing elderly populations, and they already spend close to half their budgets on social care services.

"Faced with these current pressures, and an elderly population that is projected to increase to unprecedented levels in rural areas, financial reform for the system and protection for individuals from huge costs are necessary.

"That is why we are backing a cap on care cost contributions - but this must be fully-costed for local authorities, otherwise it will have catastrophic consequences as it pushes under-pressure social care services to the brink of collapse."

The CCN report, Sustainable Social Care: A Green Paper that Delivers a New Deal for Counties, sets out how a £50,000 cap would benefit four-in-10 people currently paying for care costs, as opposed to only one-in-10 benefiting from a £72,000 cap.

But Mr Williams warned social care services were currently facing a £1.6 billion black hole and a £50,000 cap would still cost rural councils £700 million per year.

He warned of "catastrophic consequences" and councils running out of money by 2020/21 if action is not taken to increase social care funding to match recent pledges on NHS investment.

"With care services and the NHS interdependent, investing in one but not the other is financially irresponsible," he said.

"Above all, social care must continue to stay a local service and ministers should not be swayed by overly-simplistic arguments to combine all, or elements of social care within the NHS.

"The challenges local government has faced in delivering balanced budgets whilst ensuring that those most in need receive high-quality care must not be underestimated - without the leadership and innovation shown at a local level, the present situation could have been a lot worse."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) County Councils Network.