Labour Group Call For Cap on Self-funding Care Users

Councillor Stephanie Exell and Ray Ballman moved a motion at a recent Swindon Full Council Meeting calling on the government to introduce a cap on the amount care users have to spend on their care.

In Swindon, there are around 2000 people who self-fund their own care either through their own residential care or through care in their home. To date, care users have to fund their own care unless they have assets below £23,250 and some people are paying hundreds of thousands on their care. Indeed, a lady contacted the Labour Group expressing concerns that she had paid £750,000 on her own care.

In the 2014 Care Act the government had committed to ending this Laissez Faire Care system by introducing a cap of £72,000 on how much care users can spend on their own care by 2016. They subsequently reneged on this commitment after the General Election.

The Labour Group’s motion requested the Leader of Swindon Council to write to the Secretary of State for Health expressing the Council’s concerns about the Government’s delay in introducing the capping of people’s funding of their own care.

The seconder of the motion, Mannington & Western Councillor, Stephanie Exell, said at the meeting:

“The British Prime Minister, Pitt the Elder, said in 1763;

‘The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the crown.’

But, in my own words, he can’t stop the Government from making him sell it to pay for his adult social care.  Many of us sitting in the Council Chamber this evening, or our relatives, may be faced by this situation in our lifetime.

A local self-funder said to me that it had been her late father’s dearest wish that his children and grandchildren would benefit from his lifetime of hard work but so far £750,000 of his wish has been spent to fund his wife’s dementia care home fees. In fact, the Conservative manifesto in the General Election of 2015 stated that “no-one will ever have to sell their home to pay for care”.  The lifetime cap of £72,000 on the amount self-funders, those over 65 and younger adults with disabilities, would have to contribute to their care costs was due to be introduced in April 2016.  £146 million was given to Local Councils at the beginning of 2015 to fund changes to IT systems and to train staff for the cap.

However, after winning the election the Government u-turned, dropped the bad news on a day when the Commons wasn’t sitting and abandoned their flagship policy.  In a letter to the Local Government Association in July 2015, the care minister said that it was not the right time to “introduce expensive new commitmentsas the Government predicted the reforms would cost £6billion over the next five years. The Local Government Association asked for the cash to be put into the social care system itself but the Government has made no indication of whether the £6billion saved by delaying the reforms will be injected into the system.

So let me illustrate to this Council what this means for the outcomes of self-funders:

  • The self-funding market was worth £10 billion per annum in 2011.
  • Self-funders do not mind making a contribution to their adult social care.
  • The current threshold for self-funding is £23,250 in savings, property or other assets.  How much is the average house price in Swindon?
  • The Dilnot Report (the independent commission set up by the Government in 2010 to look into a fair and sustainable adult social care system) recommended the cap should be £35,000.
  • The accepted weekly estimate of care home costs is about £600 to £800 per week.  With no additional care requirements this would be around £35,000 to £40,000 per annum.
  • Self-funders are making huge financial decisions which require expert purchasing advice and support.  So often residential or nursing care is the default option, particularly arranged during a crisis or hospital stay.
  • Self-funders are vulnerable to delayed transfer of care from hospital to care homes because they are having to make personal and financial decisions at a difficult and stressful time.
  • Due to the delay of Section 18(3) of the Care Act there have been issues with self-funders’ rights to the same quality, best value and outcomes in care home provision.
  • As a result of this, if people spend their money too quickly, and without good advice, then they are likely to fall back on Local Authority provision.
  • They pay higher fees which may be used to cross-subsidise insufficient fees paid by Councils so that one person with the same care needs will be paying substantially more than another.
  • Care homes are not hotels and self-funders cannot easily change their accommodation because the prices rocket or the level of care goes down.
  • There can be a real lack of care home choice and there are some care needs e.g. vascular dementia where there is arguably no choice, either because the person would be too distressed to move or because there are not the facilities available in the independent sector.
  • A response from the Minister of Health’s department states that “potential residents are free to decide whether to agree to the fees offered or to enquire at other homes.  The Department of Health does not have powers to set or recommend the level of fees that care homes charge.”
  • Self-funders raise concerns that there is a lack of transparency about the costs of care and whilst there have been moves to improve this situation there is still a long way to go.
  • They would like to see more regulation of care home fees.

Any letter written to Government should urge them to implement their election promise of a lifetime cap during the term of this parliament. The issue of how much the cap should be needs to be revisited, as it is over double the recommended £35,000 of the Dilnot Report.

I would urge all Councillors to lobby the Government to find a long-term and sustainable funding solution for social care to avoid a care system in crisis.  If we do not, then it may be our children and grandchildren who will not be able to fund their own care needs.”