Your article "Affordable old age: U-turn on money for elderly care" (16 August) will raise a cheer in many quarters, but it generates a huge challenge for local authority social care departments.
The draft Care and Support Bill was a missed opportunity and the absence of a quantified cap on the lifetime cost of care for older people was particularly criticised. The Government now appears to have changed its mind, agreeing with the Dilnot Commission that a cap of £35,000 should be imposed.
Crucially, the current means-tested threshold of £23,350 used by local authorities to determine if an individual with eligible needs has the resources to pay for their own care will be increased. Your article suggests that any person with assets up to £100,000 could expect to receive funded support. The result is that hundreds of thousands of people who previously made their own arrangements for social care will be entitled to public funding.
This presents two problems for local authorities: first, the capacity to deal with the extra volume of contacts must be put in place. This will bring additional costs. Second, once an individual passes the threshold for funded care, the tap is turned on and expenditure on care services inevitably follows. Will the £2bn of extra funding the Dilnot U-turn requires really be sufficient to pay for this potential surge of spending?
The changes may not be implemented until 2017, but council treasurers will have their calculators out today, as this new development could well be more costly than has been suggested.
Steve Carefull, social care expert, PA Consulting Group.
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