When asked in job interviews, most people are happy to admit that they ‘like a challenge’ – even if that is just what they feel they are expected to say.
However, creating an equitable standardised care system which is likely to have at least some impact on many of the 53m people across the length and breadth of England is a challenge that even the very brave may politely turn down.
The government stepped up to this challenge by passing the Care Act in 2014, but having launched the first tranche of legislation, the second tranche – due in April 2016 – has been delayed. What does this mean in practice?
When the first part of the Care Act was introduced in April 2015 it travelled under the radar, as many were focused on pension freedoms, but it brought some fundamental changes. Arguably, the biggest of these was the decision to standardise the level at which people qualify to receive care.
So a person will need to be judged to have severe or critical needs when assessed by their local council using the ‘activities of daily living’ criteria before local authority funding may be available.
There has been a suggestion that the council has discretion to help those who do not meet these criteria, but this is likely to be decided on a case-by-case basis, so cannot be relied on.
Once this has been assessed, depending on the person’s assets (above or below £23,250) they would be expected to pay for all or a proportion of their care until they hit the lower limit (£14,250), when they would receive full state funding.
Under these new rules, local councils were also ordered to offer deferred payment agreements – billed by tabloids as ‘government equity release’ – which allowed people to use the value in their home to pay for care without having to sell the property. They were also instructed to signpost people to ‘information and advice’ on how to access care, including how to fund it.
The second tranche of the Care Act was due to be implemented in April 2016 – but has now been put back to 2020 – and would have brought in the care cap and the new asset levels.
This would mean that qualifying people with assets below £118,000 could expect some local authority support, with the cap being positioned as ensuring that people would never have to spend more than £72,000 on the cost of social care during their lifetime.
However, once the fine print was reviewed it was found that not all costs were included in this calculation, and someone in England could conceivably spend £177,500 before hitting the cap.
That said, this was still a cause for great concern for local government, as they were liable not only for the cost of implementing these changes but also in certain cases for the costs of a person’s care.