Tuesday 12 February 2013

Government Announcement on Adult Social Care

Yesterday the Government made some important announcements about Adult Social Care, including a commitment to limit the amount people should contribute to their own care to £75,000 and also raising the amount of assets that are needed before people are expected to contribute to their own care to £123,000 (from just £23,250), all of this to be implemented from 2017.

This is a welcome announcement, not because it provides a perfect solution, but because it is a start and sends the right signal of intent, despite economic circumstances. Throughout the thirteen years that Labour were in power, the significant issues facing Adult Social Care was simply filed in the all too difficult box, allowing the continuing scandal of  houses being sold from under people's feet to fund their care.  It is true that under the proposed changes this will still happen, but to a lesser extent. Furthermore, the Government have signalled that this is just a start.  Finding a way of doing this when finances are tight is a massive contrast to the Blair/Brown era when the issue was ignored - despite the economic growth.

There are those, including within my own party, who challenge the fact that this is being part-funded by a change to the commitment on raising the inheritance tax threshold. My view is that the changes announced yesterday will help and benefit far more people.

There are a number of next steps that I believe are needed as this agenda moves forwards:

1.  Government needs to start sending out clear messages about how it intends to address the demographic crisis that local authorities face. Most of us are doing everything we can, but it is not a problem that councils can deal with in isolation.

2.  A timetable needs to be set out showing how the £75,000 threshold can be moved downwards towards the £35,000 level recommended by Dilnott. This need not be a date-led timetable, but could be linked to economic growth targets - a firmer signal about how intent can move to reality would do nothing but help.

3. There needs to be recognition that the way the NHS is funded has to change. More needs to be done to prevent hospital admissions, to spot illness amongst older people earlier and deal with issues at an earlier stage - something that is better for people as well as better for the public purse. We seem to be moving towards this in Cambridgeshire and the improved structure of the NHS has provided a starting point, but bottom-up change will be helped considerably by top-down improvement.

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