Dan Parton (16/7/2012) believes the Care and Support White Paper fell short of the target:


When the Care and Support White Paper was finally published last week, it promised much, but the major issue – reforming the way the system is funded – was ducked, and could be its downfall. The failure to effectively tackle the admittedly hugely difficult task of reforming the funding of adult social care was the biggest let-down for social care users, especially those with dementia.

Indeed, the Alzheimer’s Society was scathing about the White Paper, calling it a massive failure, because it did not address the issue. There was a progress report on funding, but the basic gist was that little progress had been made on agreeing a way forward since the Dilnot Commission report was published a year ago. It also kicked the issue into the long grass as something for the next Comprehensive Spending Review in late 2013.

The Government has, like its predecessor, failed to find a solution to how all of this is going to be funded, which means that social care reform can only go so far – and certainly not as far as it needs to. To me, this smacks of blatant short-termism, thinking only of getting the deficit down, rather than putting extra money in place to fund a system for the next 20-30 years that will provide adequately for the rising number of older and disabled people who will require some form of social care.

As many others have said before me, the longer this issue is not tackled, the worse it will get, the solutions harder to come by and the cost of making the reforms larger. Even the main funding proposal that did appear – to defer care payments until after death and offer (interest-payable) loans to cover the costs in the meantime – solves nothing. A significant part of the social care debate – at least in the mainstream media – has centred on the issue of older people having to sell their homes to pay for care, and this does not stop it, just merely shifts the timeframe. Families of the person receiving the care will still have to sell the home to pay for the loan, once the person has died.

In fairness, there are some good proposals in the White Paper that could make a positive difference. For example, giving service users portable assessments, so they no longer have to be reassessed if they move area, is a sensible move. Plans for national minimum eligibility criteria for care services are also overdue. The postcode lottery has been constant problem for social care for many years and it is heartening to see this nettle grasped. However, I suspect the devil will be in the detail with this: what exactly will be the minimum level? I worry that if a council provides more than the minimum level, they will be tempted to revise their criteria down to that level, especially if budgets are still tight, which it looks like they will be.

More training for care workers is also a sensible development. Something of a no-brainer, and you wonder why it hasn’t been done before. However, this will need an effective delivery plan to ensure it happens. And more funding for it, which leads me back to the central problem…