In the summer of 2011 we saw the long awaited release of the Dilnot Commission report on care funding. Various organisations were consulted in an effort to help shed light on the issues that are currently being faced by Local Authorities, independent care providers and those providing financial products. This was done to identify the shortfalls within the current care funding model and to essentially help to create a more streamlined and overall fairer system for everyone involved in the process of providing care. Long term care is an exceptionally important thing to a lot of people and to a lot of groups. That being said, the system could of course be improved. Furthermore, the system can always strive to treat those it serves with the highest level of dignity and with the best available services and options.
One of the major recommendations of the report was that there should be a lifetime cap established on the amount an individual would have to pay for their care. It seems that the cost of providing long term care seems to keep going up. So, when someone learns that they may in fact need care, they panic as to how they will afford to pay for that care. This is especially true for those who have looked forward to leaving behind assets or property to their children or other beneficiaries. The figure suggested for this lifetime cap was £35,000 and on the face of it you may think that if this were implemented it would save you thousands on the cost of your care.
However, those long term care costs do continue to rise and the average cost of care is now somewhere in excess of £25,000 per annum for residential care. For residential care with a nursing component included, the cost is even higher with an average that is in excess of £35,000 per annum. The lifetime cap of £35,000 on the cost of care is just that-a cap on the care element of your costs only. However, when paying for long term care, you are not only paying for the care aspect of care. A major percentage of your actual care fee is to cover the cost of accommodation. This accommodation cost would not be subject to the cap. So, really you could still be paying a substantial sum towards your care fees, even with a cap in place.
Another suggestion via the report was that the upper means test limit should be raised from its current level of £23,250 to £100,000 so individuals needing care would be able to retain a greater proportion of their capital should they be admitted to care. Whilst the proposals are an improvement on the current system, there is no commitment as yet from the government to adopt them and due to the level of cutbacks in public spending budgets it is unlikely to be actioned for many years to come.
Even with the government’s support to implement the proposals that have been outlined by the Dilnot report, it does not seem that there is any clear answer the problems that plague the long term care system in the UK. Social care funding has major challenges ahead of it. The system, along with who is responsible for paying for which services, is often very incoherent and confusing for both providers and for those receiving services. This kind of confusion can really leave the system with delivery issues, which can impact those who are seeking services and really need the care. A funding reform, or rather funding overhaul, might be what the long term care system needs in order to be deemed successful. However, any implementation of this kind of overhaul or reform may prove very costly and challenging. Any kind of overhaul of the system now would need to be communicated very well and in a way that would be easily translated by those who are actually receiving the services. Right now, it seems as though that population feels very confused about the long term care system and may even feel a little cheated by how the system works or how it has treated them individually. That being said, an overhaul might be the answer, should it be done appropriately and correctly. To start, a new cap on how much an individual contributes to their care and a higher threshold for qualifying for assistance might prove to be a solid jumping off point. A clear message, along with these reforms, would help the average individual to better plan for their future and the future of their loved ones.