Earlier this year we wrote about the delay to a proposed lifetime care cap on the cost of social care.
The proposed lifetime cap and reform to social care funding was delayed until 2020, following an announcement made by the Department for Health.
The cap was due to be introduced in April 2016 at a level of £72,000.
It is being delayed due to concerns it will cost £6bn to implement over the next five years.
Announcing the delay, the government said that it could not afford to make “expensive new commitments like this” during a time of austerity.
But what is the cost of this delay to reform of social care funding for those people who might have benefited from a lifetime cap?
In a written parliamentary question, Conor McGinn MP, Labour member for St Helens North, asked the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment he has made of the effect of the delay in reform of social care funding until 2020 on the provision of social care.
McGinn also asked how many people will be affected by that delay in St Helens North constituency, the North West and the UK.
The question was answered by Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, Minister of State (Department of Health), who gave the following written answer:
We remain committed to the implementation of the cap on care costs, which will offer financial protection and peace of mind.
The decision to delay followed careful consideration of feedback from stakeholders that April 2016 was not the right time to implement these significant and expensive reforms.
The benefits of the cap have had to be weighed against the need to focus on supporting the system that supports the most vulnerable.
In reaching the difficult decision to delay we considered the impact on those who would have entered the cap system from April next year.
Though they will not benefit from the additional help straightaway, many will still benefit from the cap system when it is introduced in 2020.
The delay will allow local authorities time to focus on consolidating the important reforms to care and support introduced on 1 April 2015, laying the groundwork to implement the funding reforms as successfully as possible in 2020.
Based on the most recent impact assessment, had the cap system been implemented in April 2016, around 23,000 older people in England would have benefitted immediately in 2016/17 and by 2025/26 up to 80,000 additional older people would have received state support.
Information regarding how many people will be affected by the delay in specific constituencies or regions is not held in the format requested.
Means-tested financial support remains available for those who cannot afford to pay for care to meet their eligible needs.
This suggests a significant number of people will miss out as a result of the delay to reform of social care funding.
The delay to the introduction of a lifetime cap on social care means over 100,000 will be financially worse off compared to a situation where the reform had been introduced on schedule in April 2016.
We understand that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt continues to maintain that the cap will be introduced a month before the next general election in 2020.
Whether this reform or some other scheme to help with the financial burden of social care sees the light of day is likely to depend on the state of the economy at that time.
With our population continuing to age, we believe it is unlikely any major reforms to social care funding will be introduced in 2020; certainly not in the format proposed by the Dilnot Commission, which now look increasingly unaffordable.
Those who have relatives in need for long-term care in later life should continue to seek specialist independent financial advice to ensure they fully understand all of their choices and options.