BLOG: Long-term care – is it all smoke and mirrors?

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A casual observer could be forgiven for imagining that there was significant political momentum towards the delivery of a care funding solution. Chris Horlick is a believer.

In the last week a £75,000 care cap has been leaked to the media; the Coalition has placed Dilnot at the heart of its ‘re-launch' and former Care Minister Paul Burstow has provoked controversy with a call for Universal Fuel Benefits to be scrapped to fund care.

However some question whether this is merely rhetoric? After all the £75,000 cap was not announced as expected in the Coalition statement.

Indeed, the Coalition did not actually announce anything other than a commitment to make a later announcement; and Paul Burstow conceded that he provoked controversy, in part, to ensure Dilnot does not get ‘lost in the long grass'.

Are these reasons to be disappointed?

I don't think so. I believe the leaked £75,000 cap is a shrewd tactic by Government to re-set expectations from £35,000 to a far higher level, and in turn creating the conditions for a relieved welcome for a lower cap at around £60,000.

Also, despite initial disappointment at the absence of ‘meat' in the Coalition statement there is a firm commitment to deliver a concrete announcement before the March Budget.

This week the Deputy Prime Minister also made the commitment in the House of Commons to seek to ‘enshrine legislation' to pay for Dilnot during this Parliament. This is the first commitment of this type that I am aware of in the House of Commons.

One must also not forget that the real work of the House of Commons takes place in its Committee rooms. The Scrutiny Committee for the Draft Care and Support Bill will report on the 7th March.

These are significant events as we approach the Queen's Speech in May.

Another factor which must not be discounted is the renewed appetite that journalists and politicians bring to the care funding debate following the Christmas break.

This is apparent in media coverage and was amply demonstrated at the launch of CentreForum's report - ‘Delivering Dilnot - paying for elderly care' in the House of Commons this week, which launched Paul Burstow's proposals.

Paul is a steely champion for care funding reform, and as a former Care Minister and Chair of the LibDem Parliamentary party has great resource and commitment to the delivery of a care funding solution that only the naïve would underestimate.

Political will and confidence are very rare commodities in the mid-term of any Government and particularly one coping with the challenges of eye watering fiscal constraint. The ability to deliver concrete care funding proposals will be based on the willingness among politicians to set aside political divisions and prioritise the needs of our eldest.

This requires political pragmatism and the needs to overwhelm the Treasury which currently has all the aces. The last few weeks indicate that the willingness to do so is real.

Chris Horlick is managing director of the care division at annuities provider Partnership

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