Social care has been almost entirely absent from the government’s narrative so far, other than a call from the Secretary of State for families to do more to support older relatives and news that a new carers’ strategy will be published.
An exception was the announcement that the implementation of the cap on care costs, originally proposed by the Dilnot Commission, has been shelved until 2020. This breaks the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment to implement the cap from April 2016. While there were genuine concerns about implementing the changes in the current financial climate and the Local Government Association called for a delay, postponing them until 2020 suggests the reforms have been abandoned.
The reason given for the delay – the need to prioritise funding to shore up services in the short term – highlights the huge pressures facing social care. The increase in the national minimum wage announced in the Budget will also have a significant impact on a sector that is characterised by low pay. With these pressures in mind, all eyes now turn to the Spending Review in the autumn and the question of whether the funding earmarked for the Dilnot reforms will be re-invested in social care.
- Delay to Dilnot reforms
In mid-July the government announced that the implementation of a cap on care costs, originally proposed by the Dilnot Commission, will be delayed until April 2020, breaking a clear commitment in the Conservative Party manifesto. The cap on the lifetime costs of care, which was included in the Care Act 2014 and had been set at £72,000, was due to be implemented from April 2016. Associated changes to means testing, which would have meant that more people qualified for local authority-funded services, have also been delayed until 2020.
The government has re-asserted its commitment to implementing the cap, but argued the delay is necessary given the costs of implementing the policy (estimated to be £6 billion over the next 5 years) at a time when social care is under significant pressure. This follows concerns raised by the Local Government Association which had requested a delay in implementation and for the funding set aside for this to be used to shore up the social care budget instead. The government has also decided to delay the full introduction of the duty on local authorities, set out in the Care Act, to meet the eligible needs of self-funders in care homes until the same date.
- Carers' strategy
In July the Secretary of State announced that the Minister for Community and Social Care, Alistair Burt, will develop a new carers’ strategy. The strategy, which will draw on evidence of best practice in the United Kingdom and internationally, will seek to determine how to support existing carers, and how support can be provided for the growing numbers of carers in future.
This follows on from the carers’ strategy national action plan for 2014–16 which was produced by the coalition government towards the end of 2014.