Another broken promise, the Health and Care Bill fails to fix social care

Last night, as I watched the Health and Care Bill return to the Lords, my heart sank. Despite the hard work of many charities, MPs and Peers, this bill failed to deliver on one of the Government’s key promises, to fix social care.

When Boris Johnson first promised to fix social care, Sense and many other people and organisations hoped that this would mean the introduction of a ‘zero cap’. This concept was originally recommended by the Dilnot Commission, a commission created by David Cameron to look at how to fund social care. If introduced, the ‘zero cap’ would mean that people who developed care needs under the age of 40 would not need to pay for their social care. Meaning that working-age disabled people would not face catastrophic care costs amounting to most of their income.

When the Government unveiled their plan for social care in September 2021. It did not include a zero cap, but it did introduce a cap on care costs. We knew that this wasn’t perfect, but we welcomed it as a first step to making social care more affordable for disabled people.

September announcement

In September 2021 the Government announced that people would spend a maximum of £86,000 on their care in their life. The rationale behind this cap is that it would stop people having to sell their houses or use up their savings to pay for social care.

This was never great solution for working age disabled adults (who make up a third of people who use social care in England as they often don’t have a huge amount of savings to start with due to their care costs eating up a large amount of their income.  

Despite these concerns, we believed it was a step forward from the current system. We assumed that local authority contributions would be included, this would allow some  disabled people to reach the £86,000 and therefore stop having to pay for their care.  

 December announcement

Unfortunately, in December 2021, the Government then introduced a version of the cap which meant that local authority contributions would no longer be included, meaning disabled adults would continue to face life-long catastrophic costs for their care.

With local authority contributions removed from the cap, some people with complex disabilities can face care costs amounting to 80 per cent of their income.

Sense and other charities sprang into action, we worked with MPs and Peers to try and make sure the cap worked for all disabled people.

Parliamentary debate

As the bill went through Parliament it was passed back and forth between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Lords kept amending the bill so that the cap would  include local authority contributions, they also tried to secure the zero cap. Unfortunately, every time it came back from the Commons these amendments were removed. Last night was the end of this process, and the Lords were unable to secure support to change the cap.

This means that when the bill becomes a law on Thursday, the cap will not properly support working age disabled adults.

What now?

While we knew that the cap was never going to be the perfect solution to the social care crisis, it is still a huge disappointment that in its current form it does so little to help people with complex disabilities. However, we will continue to work with the Government to try and make this cap work better for everyone.

As everyone working in policy knows, there is always setbacks when trying to achieve change, and this is just another example of this. The process of working on this legislation has shown how much support fixing social care has across the political parties, and how well the charity sector can work together when pursuing a common goal. So we will dust ourselves off, pull up our boots, and continue to fight to make sure social care works for everyone.

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