Andrew Dilnot’s much anticipated report into the funding of care and support has finally been released this morning. Key points are that care costs should be capped at £35,000, food and accommodation costs should also be capped and the means test threshold should be raised from 23,500 to 100,000.
Dilnot argues that this will mean that no-one going into care should have to spend more than 30% of their assets. The scheme he claims will cost £1.7bn a year, an affordable one four hundredth of total public spending (£700 billion).
There’s no doubt that the finding of adult social care is one of the most pressing political issues of our time. Life expectancy in the developed world rises by about two years every decade (equivalent to your death receding by about five hours every day).
As we live longer, more and more of us will spend longer periods of our old age needing significant amounts of care. The Dilnot commission found that people were frightened of this prospect because they did not know what costs they would face. So it’s pleasing that Dilnot also supported a Law Commission proposal for councils to be given a statutory duty to provide advice on care.
Press coverage of the report has naturally focused on the national picture and on the potential costs of Dilnot’s recommendations as a proportion of national spend, but in reality this issue is most pressing for local government for whom adult social care is their biggest area of expenditure by far.
Councils directly fund about 59% of those in care but they also end up funding about 25% of those who initially fund their own care once they deplete their resources and fall back on the state. Independent Ageing, a recent report by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) supported by Partnership found this ‘hidden‘ cost to be up to £1 billion a year nationally. Dilnot’s proposals will increase the cost of state funding but should make it more predictable by ensuring that fewer self-funders run out of money.
Dilnot suggests that the cap will allow an insurance market to expand to fund care home places, pooling the risk among a wider group and reducing the numbers forced to sell their homes. A better market for insurance to meet care costs is exactly what LGiU argued for in Independent Ageing but this relies on people receiving advice from appropriately qualified independent advisors. Local authorities would be helping their citizens and their own financial interests if they connected people with such advice: but at present only 3% of them do so.
It remains to be seen how the government responds to Dilnot’s recommendations. Media speculation is that George Osborne is not very keen on the extra £1.7 billion spend. We should get an early indication when Paul Burstow, the Minister of State for Social Care, addresses the All Party Parliamentary Group for Local Government on Wednesday.
Irrespective of the national response, however, there are already simple steps that can be taken at a local level to ensure that people get advice on how to manage their finances and reduce the chances of them falling back on state funded care. That’s a financial issue of course, but it’s also, most crucially, a way of giving people self-determination and dignity in the old age that’s an increasingly common destiny for us all.
The most eye-catching items in the Cambridge Review of the Primary Curriculum are the proposals that children should not start formal learning until they are six and that testing at 11 should be scrapped. It argues that the early imposition of academic strictures results in permanent alienation from learning. Instead the Cambridge Review argues that the kind of play-based learning featured in nurseries and reception classes should go on for another year. "This would give sufficient time for children to establish positive attitudes to learning and begin to develop the language and study skills which are essential to their later progress”. Ministers, however, have already dismissed the findings. Schools Minister Vernon Coaker responded with a robust defence of early academic learning and testing in English and Mathematics at 11. So – despite this heavyweight contribution to the debate which took six years to research – it looks like Ministers will require further persuasion before they drop the belief that only learning that can be measured matters. This is a shame because the Government had showed signs of recognising that good schools are about so much more than tests. The proposed School Report Card, for instance, will aim to measure the performance of schools across a broader range of outcomes than raw exam results. It should not turn its back on this work. The Government should instead investagate how school performance metrics can value informal learning. The LGIU will make its contribution to this debate in a paper that will explore how outcome-based accountability could reward secondary schools for providing practical learning that does not necessarily result in a qualification. As always, your thoughts on this work would be appreciated.