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The cap doesn’t fit

Stephen Burke, a trustee of the Relatives & Residents Association, shares his views on the cap on social care costs

 

I will declare an interest: I have opposed a cap on care costs ever since the Dilnot commission proposed the idea more than ten years ago. Not only would it disproportionately benefit wealthier families, it would not bring new money into the under-funded care system and it would make the current complex system even more complicated and difficult to navigate with more layers of bureaucracy.

 

The surprise is that it has taken so long for the cap’s flaws to become widely known. This week the government has dropped the facade that the cap would help all older people and their families – that is clearly not the case and in particular it will provide little or no help to less wealthy people who own their own home in low house price areas.

 

The problem with the cap stems from 2010 when the Dilnot commission was asked the wrong question. The commission should have been asked how to create a sustainable, fair and simple care system that is personalised and universal. Instead they were set the old chestnut question of how to prevent people having to sell their home to pay care home fees.

 

Dilnot’s answer was a cap on care costs. It would be expensive to the Treasury but all it does is substitute spending by individuals with public spending; it doesn’t bring in extra spending to the system. But the real political issue is that most people’s biggest assets are primarily their home and the housing market is not a level playing field across the country. So the cap will help families living in high house price areas to keep hold of a much larger percentage of the value of their home.

 

It’s not too late for the government to go back to the drawing board. There are fairer ways to pay for a better care system that delivers what older and disabled people and their families want. We just need bold leadership to make it happen.


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