Whither the implementation of the care costs cap

 In Gill's Blog

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Is it just me who is nervous about the current limbo in which government seems to be and its effect on many things, but particularly the implementation of the care costs cap (‘the cap’)?

Politics

On 7 September 2021 the Prime Minister announced that from October 2023, the government would introduce a new £86,000 cap on the amount anyone in England would need to spend on their personal care over their lifetime. The reform was designed to improve how social care in England is paid for and what care users should contribute. The result was what the government at the time believed to be a credible, deliverable and sustainable new charging system. It was to be funded by a 1.25% increase in National Insurance contributions which was brought into effect in April 2022.

As a result of the change of Prime Minister in September 2022, this approach may conceivably change. At the moment, Steve Barclay MP is the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care. He only took over from Sajid Javid on 5 July 2022 and on 5 September 2022 a new Prime Minister will be in post, who will doubtless want to change the Secretary of State once more. One of the possible candidates to be Prime Minister has already said they will cancel the increase in National Insurance. What will this mean for funding social care?

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The care cost cap

The cap is designed to protect people from unpredictable care costs by limiting the costs a person in England will need to meet for the payment of their eligible care and support needs in their lifetime (where eligible needs are those defined as such under the Care Act 2014.

As a result, the cap makes it clear the costs that a person will need to meet themselves throughout their care journey. From October 2023 the cap will be set at £86,000. Thereafter, an annual review will assess and determine whether this amount should be adjusted to take account of inflation.

Anyone assessed by a local authority as having eligible care and support needs, whether a new entrant or an existing social care user, can begin to progress towards the cap from October 2023 onwards.

The cap is the maximum amount anyone who starts receiving care after this date will have to pay to meet their eligible care and support needs. This is based on what the local authority charges the person to meet their eligible care and support needs, or in the case of self-funders who arrange their care themselves, what the cost would be to the local authority of meeting those needs.

Some additional problems are the poor rates of pay in the sector, the lack of training and the resultant lack of sufficient care workers to provide the care. According to Carehome.co.uk the average weekly cost of living in a residential care home is £704, while the average nursing home cost is £888 per week across the UK. The monthly average cost of residential care is £2816 and receiving nursing care in a care home costs on average £3552. Of course, these figures vary widely from location to location in the UK. There is also a big difference between what the Local Authority pays and what it costs the home to provide the care, presently largely bridged by extra fees paid by self-funders.

Statutory guidance

Back in March 2022 a government consultation sought views on the statutory guidance that would set out how the charging reforms would operate in practice, subject to Parliamentary approval. Feedback gained is apparently being used to ensure the statutory guidance can be easily understood and is workable. Consultation responses will also be used to inform the government’s approach to supporting local authorities in their preparations for the reforms leading up to October 2023.

The revised operational guidance can be found here and let’s hope that things have developed sufficiently for there to be no going back whoever is the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

Conclusion

The way ahead is going to be challenging for everyone involved in the assessment and delivery of care to those in need of social care. Practitioners will need to keep on top of developments to be able to talk to relevant clients about how the changes will affect them and their families. You can keep up with the Department of Health & Social Care’s announcements around this huge project.

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