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Government fears Dilnot’s prohibitive costs

The government has refused to offer any assurances that its imminent white paper and bill on social care will follow the recommendations of the Dilnot Report, citing the proposals’ prohibitive costs as the main stumbling block.

12 June 2012

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“The Dilnot Commission’s recommendations are hugely valuable. However, implementing them would have significant costs, which must be considered in light of the growing demand for social care, and of other priorities,” said Earl Howe, parliamentary under-secretary of state for the department of health, when asked about the issue yesterday (11 June 2012) in the House of Lords.

“The government cannot ignore cost pressures arising from proposals such as those of Dilnot,” he continued. “We have calculated those costs at £2.2bn. This is not money that can be drummed up easily. Nevertheless, we are looking at ways in which to address that particular issue,” said Earl Howe.

Baroness Hollis of Heighham suggested that the funding shortfall could be met from pensions’ tax relief. “Higher rate tax relief on pensions - as part of the total of £30bn of tax relief - amounts to £7bn a year. Were that money ring-fenced and redistributed within the same age group it could pay for Dilnot three times over.

“Will [Earl Howe] consider looking at that as a source of funding for Dilnot?” she asked.

Earl Howe remained non-committal, saying that he would “make sure that the suggestion was fed in to the discussions currently in train on that subject”.

He also refused to offer any guarantee that the white paper will include a timetable for consultation on funding.

Baroness Wheeler, who raised the subject, asked: “Does [Earl Howe] not agree that there must be a package of reforms that will embrace current and long-term funding solutions, as well as the legal framework proposals expected in the white paper and bill?

“Will he reassure the House that the progress report accompanying the white paper will contain a clear timetable for consultation on funding issues? Will he also reassure us that the government intends to honour the prime minister’s pledge to deal with social care funding in this parliament?”

But Earl Howe refused to be drawn. “This is the first reform of social care law in more than 60 years. It is a unique opportunity to get the legal framework right. That is why we have deliberately taken time to engage fully with those who have experience and expertise in care and support,” he said.

“Many people in the sector have called explicitly for scrutiny on a draft bill, so publishing a bill in this way demonstrates our commitment to working in partnership. We remain absolutely committed to introducing legislation at the earliest opportunity in this parliament to establish a sustainable legal framework for adult social care. The draft bill will be the critical next step in delivering the reform agenda.”

For the full text of the debate see

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