Social care is currently means-tested
Social care costs in England should be capped so people do not face losing their assets, a review is to say.
Council-funded home help and care home places for the elderly and adults with disabilities are currently only offered to those with under £23,250 of assets.
The independent Dilnot report, being published later, will say the threshold should rise to £100,000 and suggest a £35,000 cap on costs would be “fair”.
But ministers have indicated the level of any cap will need to be discussed.
Last year the coalition government asked economist Andrew Dilnot to look into how the system of funding social care in England could be changed amid concerns it was getting harder for people to get access to state support.
The ageing population and squeeze on councils budgets have led councils to impose stricter criteria on who can get help.
Care across the UK
- Many councils in England have stopped providing support to those with low and moderate needs
- The Dilnot Commission was set up in July 2010 to establish how to achieve an affordable care system for adults in England
- Wales and Northern Ireland both have means-tested systems which are similar to England
- Scotland provides free personal care, but in recent years has tightened the eligibility criteria for the same reasons as councils in England
It means while 1.8m are getting state funding, another 1m-plus either have to pay for support themselves or go without.
Instead of this system, Mr Dilnot’s commission will recommend a partnership between the state and individual whereby the high costs are covered by the government – one in 10 people aged over 65 faces care costs of more than £100,000 over their lifetime.
But the individual should be liable for the first tranche of care with a cap in costs set at between £25,000 and £50,000, the report will say. It will suggest £35,000 as the ideal figure.
The hope is that with the state paying for the high-cost cases, the insurance industry would be encouraged to develop polices which would cover any care costs below the cap.
Means-testing should remain so that the poorest would not have to pay, the commission will recommend, but it will say the threshold should be raised for those going into residential care.
At the moment, people with assets, including the value of their house, of over £23,250 pay for all their care.
The commission will say this should be increased to £100,000 to better reflect the rise in property value seen over the past 20 years.
The report will also call for an end to the ever-tightening restrictions being placed on access. Instead, it will say that there should be a national standard so everyone has the same access no matter where they live.
However, an overhaul on this scale is likely to cost the government more.
It has been suggested an extra £2bn will be needed immediately – on top of the £14bn that is already spent by councils – although this would increase in time with the ageing population.
The Treasury is known to have doubts whether more money can be found in the current financial climate.
Speaking before the publication of the report, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said ministers were likely to give it a “positive response” and “treat it as the basis for engagement”.
However, he said the level of any cap, how it would paid for and the threshold for means testing were among a “range of issues that need to be resolved”.
Michelle Mitchell, of Age UK, said action was long overdue: “Social care is at crisis point. Vulnerable people are going without care and that means their conditions are worsening and they are ending up in hospital and costing the government more. We cannot go on as we are doing.”
Age UK was one of 26 charities which wrote to the Sunday Telegraph calling for politicians to hold cross-party talks on the issue and “not let reform fall off the table for another generation”.
Any overhaul of the system would take about five years to introduce.