On 4 July 2011, the Independent Commission on Funding of Care and Support published its report on its findings and recommendations for a new funding system for care and support in England. The report has been welcomed by Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services, Gwenda Thomas AM, who said that “Wales has already taken action to cap social care charges for home care”.
The Commission, chaired by economist Andrew Dilnot, was set up as an independent body by the UK Government in July 2010 to review and make recommendations on how to achieve an affordable and sustainable funding system for care and support, for all adults in England. The report is called the Dilnot report.
The full report, along key supporting documents can be found at:
The report highlighted that the current funding system is in urgent need of reform: it is hard to understand, often unfair and unsustainable. People are left exposed to potentially catastrophic care costs with no way to protect themselves.
The report includes the following proposals:
- individuals‘ lifetime contributions towards their care costs should be capped at a recommended £35,000. After this they would be eligible for full state support;
- the means-tested threshold, above which people are liable for their full care costs, should be increased from £23,250 to £100,000;
- national eligibility criteria and portable assessments should be introduced to ensure greater consistency;
- all those who enter adulthood with a care and support need should be eligible for free support immediately, rather than being subjected to a means test; and
- universal disability benefits for people of all ages should continue it does now. Although they should be better aligned with the reformed social care funding system.
The Dilnot report applies to England – what about Wales?
The Welsh Government has its own programme for renewal of social services in Wales, as set out in its recent Paper Sustainable Social Services for Wales: A Framework for Action. The First Minister has signalled the Welsh Government's intention to bring forward a major Social Services Bill to provide a Welsh legal framework for social services. This would give the Welsh Government an opportunity to use its law making powers gained earlier this year.
Welsh Ministers have a long-standing commitment to build a new system of paying for social care that is fair, affordable and sustainable in the long term. Over the past few years the Welsh Government has issued a Green Paper and undertaken extensive consultation with a wide range of stakeholders across Wales, to find out what kind of system would be supported both publically and politically. The Welsh Government has also capped social care charges for those people living at home and receiving non-residential social services to a maximum of £50 per week wherever they live in Wales (except for low level, low cost services where a flat rate is charged, such as the provision of meals).
The Welsh Government’s response
In response to the publication of the Dilnot report, the Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services, Gwenda Thomas AM, said:
"I welcome the publication of this report on long term care funding in England. This is an issue of vital importance for people in Wales, as well as the rest of the UK; and I would want to see a fair and sustainable system in place here".
"That is why we have already taken action in Wales to cap charging for social care - we have introduced a weekly maximum charge of £50 for non-residential care and I am delighted to see that people across Wales are now feeling the benefits of that change. I am pleased to see that the Dilnot Commission is following a similarly pragmatic and straightforward approach in making its key recommendations around capping an individual's lifetime contribution towards care costs".
Responding to the Report – Next Steps for the UK Government
The Department of Health intends to engage with the care sector in the autumn about its plans to reform social care - including how it might respond to the Dilnot report. The Secretary of State has made a commitment to publish a White Paper on wider social care issues next spring and a progress report on funding reform.
What next for Wales?
The Welsh Government intends to implement Sustainable Social Services for Wales: A Framework for Action. They will consider whether provisions need to be put in place to deal with issues from the findings and recommendations of the Dilnot report. They will also continue talking with the UK Government on funding issues. This will make sure that both Governments have a clear understanding of each other’s thinking and will ensure that the best interests of the people of Wales are protected in the proposals.