Minister 'attracted' to auto-enrolment for social care

Minister 'attracted' to auto-enrolment for social care

The secretary of state for health and social care has said he is "attracted" to the idea of using auto-enrolment to encourage people to fund their social care costs.

Speaking at a heading of the economic affairs committee in the House of Lords, Matt Hancock showed interest in using a pension model to reform social care but rather than use the state pension model he wanted to use a system similar to auto-enrolment.

"I am attracted to auto-enrolment [for social care funding] as it has worked with pensions," he said. "You use the fact that a lot of people don’t understand this area of finance to set a norm and then give people the option to opt-out."

But the committee warned it would be hard to see how this could work unless it was compulsory, given that younger people might not see the importance in saving for care.

Mr Hancock also warned that a cap alone was not a solution to the social care funding issue or the injustices people face in the current system, the secretary of state for health and social care has said.

He said a cap on lifetime care costs was one way of solving some of the injustices in the care system but it would not solve all of them.

"I haven’t yet seen a proposition which solves all the injustices faced by people saving for social care,” Mr Hancock told the committee.

"There is a regional injustice as well as an injustice that some people have to use their home [to pay for care costs] and others do not and it is impossible to know early on if this will be the case.

"Attached to this is also the unfairness of some people having to save their whole life for a home which they will then need to use for care costs, whereas others will not have saved but the state will fund them."

He said there was a series of ways in which the existing care funding system was unfair but said it was hard to see a single solution to this problem.

Although chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond told the committee last year the upcoming green paper into social care would set out several proposals to reflect different ways of delivering and funding the cap, Mr Hancock neither confirmed nor denied that a cap would be included in the paper at all.

He admitted setting a cap would be difficult because it would have to be measured on the starting point of care costs based on each individual.

"I want to put forward a green paper that will bring a cross-party debate and will deliver a direction of travel in which we can make progress," said Mr Hancock.

The social care green paper was initially due to be published last summer but has faced several delays but the government has said it will become public "in due course".