UK & World News
Elderly Care Cap Is Put On Hold By Coalition
The biggest reform of the social care system in more than 60 years has been published by the Government but does not include a cap on payments.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley made clear he could not commit to where a cap should be set until the next spending review, although he agreed "in principle" that one should exist.
Analysis by the Department of Health showed the Government has looked at a number of different options - including setting the limit at £75,000 or £100,000.
This is far higher than the recommendation by economist Andrew Dilnot last year, who suggested a cap between £25,000 and £50,000 to stop pensioners being forced to sell their homes to fund residential care in their old age.
Mr Lansley, as he published the draft Care and Support Bill, insisted the Government is looking at the "whole range" of options but said funding the changes had to be agreed at the next Treasury spending round in 2013.
"Our plans will bring the most comprehensive overhaul of social care since 1948 and will mean that people get the care and support that they need to be safe and to live well so they don't reach a crisis point," Mr Lansley told MPs.
"We agree that the principle of the Dilnot recommendations - financial protection through capped costs and an extended means test - would be the right basis for any new funding model.
"However, while this is the right thing to do and it is our intention to base a new funding model on the principles, if a way to pay for it can be found, any proposal which includes extra public spending needs to be considered alongside other spending priorities, which of course include the demographic pressure on the social care service itself.
"The right place to do this is at the next spending review. We are taking definitive steps now to take forward a number of important recommendations made by the Dilnot Commission."
Labour accused the Government of refusing to face up to the problem of supporting an ageing population by not addressing exactly how care could be paid for.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "With no answers on the money, this White Paper fails the credibility test; it is half a plan."
The move to delay fixing a cap came as plans to give pensioners state loans to fund their care, with the money repaid on their death, were unveiled.
People who cannot afford their own care will be able to borrow the money from local councils under a nominal interest rate. It would be paid back after their death through the sale of their house.
The scheme, due to be introduced across England from April 2015, is intended to help around 40,000 people a year who are forced to sell their homes to pay for care.
Mr Lansley said: "No one will be forced to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for care."
But campaigners said the loan did nothing to address the funding problems.
Ros Altmann, head of the over-50s group Saga, said: "Empty words will not deliver care. Funding is the crucial missing piece of the care puzzle and the longer the system is left as it is the more families will suffer. It's not acceptable to use the fiscal deficit as an excuse."
Pauline Turner was forced by her local council to sell her mother's bungalow to pay for care bills that have climbed to £96,000 in less than five years. To make matters worse, her £50 a week pension credit was stopped because her savings increased after the sale.
She said: "The Government are saying to us: 'Be thrifty, look after yourself, work hard and you will get rewarded'. Why should I be thrifty or why should my mother have been thrifty because she has lost everything she ever worked for. So why do we bother? The government is sending out confusing messages here."
The Care and Support White Paper and draft Bill also set out plans to end huge variations in the care people can expect around the country.
There will be minimum standards, training for more care workers and a move to rule out the practice of 'contacting by the minute', in which people are allocated short periods of help at home with washing and dressing.