Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Dilnot reveals social care funding plan

The Commission on Funding of Care and Support has delivered its final report, outlining a vision for social care that includes limits to the amounts people will pay towards residential care, retains universal benefits and introduces standardised eligibility criteria for services.

The commission also calls on more to be spent on social care, and called the current system “not fit for purpose”. In its final report, Fairer Care Funding, the Commission on Funding of Care and Support – also known as the Dilnot Commission, after economist Andrew Dilnot who headed it – made numerous recommendations for the government to consider. The main recommendations are:

  • The lifetime contribution to adult social care costs that any individual needs to make to be capped at between £25,000 and £50,000
  • Means-tested support should continue for those of lower means, and the asset threshold for those in residential care beyond which no means-tested help is given should increase from £23,250 to £100,000
  • Those who enter adulthood already having a care and support need should immediately be eligible for free state support to meet their care needs, rather than being subjected to a means test
  • Universal disability benefits for people of all ages should continue as now. The commission recommends that the government consider how better to align benefits with the reformed social care funding system and that Attendance Allowance should be retained but re-branded to clarify its purpose
  • A shift to national standardised eligibility thresholds. In the short-term, the commission recommends a minimum eligibility threshold to be set nationally at ‘substantial’ under the current system
  • The Government should urgently develop a more objective eligibility and assessment framework
  • Assessments should be portable between local authority areas
  • Significant improvement in the provision of information and advice, including placing a statutory duty on local authorities to provide information, advice and assistance services in their areas. These should be available to all people, irrespective of how their care is funded or provided
  • Carers should be supported by improved assessments that take place alongside the assessment of the person being cared for and which aim to ensure that the impact on the carer is manageable and sustainable
  • More joined-up working across the whole care and support system – health, housing, benefits and adult social care.

Dilnot said: “The issue of funding for adult social care has been ignored for too long. We should be celebrating the fact we are living longer and that younger people with disabilities are leading more independent lives than ever before. But instead we talk about the ‘burden of ageing’ and individuals are living in fear, worrying about meeting their care costs. “The current system is confusing, unfair and unsustainable. People can’t protect themselves against the risk of very high care costs and risk losing all their assets, including their house. This problem will only get worse if left as it is, with the most vulnerable in our society being the ones to suffer. “Under our proposed system, everybody who gets free support from the State now will continue to do so and everybody else would be better off. The commission’s proposals have been welcomed by learning disability charities. Mark Goldring, Mencap’s chief executive, said: “The social care system is broken and in urgent need of fixing. The Dilnot Report makes some welcome recommendations that we believe will create a fairer funding system for people who are in dire need of care. “Now is the time for monumental change and it is vital that the government does not bury social care reform. The government must be brave, listen to these recommendations and act quickly. As a government and as a society we simply cannot afford not to fix this broken system.”

Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, added; “For adults with autism and other disabilities social care services are vital to ensuring they live full and independent lives, yet they are currently drastically under-funded. Taking forward the recommendations of this report offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure disabled adults receive adequate social care and are supported to reach their potential. “For too long people with autism have been misunderstood and discriminated against by a complicated and counter-productive system that often lets people reach crisis point before they get any help. Social care must not be a system of last resort.  “Not only does the right support at the right time make an enormous difference to the lives of people with autism, it could also save the government millions, if not billions, each year.”

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, also welcomed the report and its proposal to cap care costs. “For people with lifelong conditions, it’s not just about the risk of having to sell their home due to uncapped care costs. Many working age disabled people will never be able to buy a home in the first place, because the current system of social care means testing effectively penalises them for saving,” he said. “If they build up savings, income or a home worth over £23,250, they risk dropping off of the means-testing ‘cliff edge’ and having to spend every penny they have saved on staggering care costs. This puts them back to square one, and leaves them without the financial resilience for unexpected shocks.” The commission’s report will now go to the government, alongside the Law Commission’s recent review of adult social care law, for consideration. New legislation on adult social care is expected in 2012. The full report can be accessed here

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