My Lords, I rise to make two brief points. First, this argument is not really about eligibility criteria but about money. It would be highly desirable to extend eligibility to people with only moderate needs, but we will find it extremely hard simply to cater for people with substantial needs unless the pot of money is substantially expanded. That is the elephant in the room. In all the discussions here, we are describing a marvellous new system, but we have not yet said how it will be paid for.
Secondly, I think that eligibility criteria are, to a degree, a bit of a phantom. We know that there is variation between authorities across the country: some accept people with moderate needs and some accept them with substantial needs. Quite aside from that, there is overwhelming evidence of enormous variety not between local authorities but within local authorities depending on who is assessing you and their state of mind. I quote in support of this a report from the National Care Standards Commission in 2005-06 and an excellent report by the PSSRU last year which tells you what actually goes on when people are being assessed. You might have a social worker who is terribly sympathetic to the older or disabled people she is assessing, and her boss who is, no doubt, sympathetic but who knows what budget he has to meet each month. In those cases, you simply get a wrestling match.
Thirdly, and to me most worryingly, once the cap comes in, people and their families will have a huge economic interest in demonstrating that they have substantial needs because that is when the meter starts ticking for them getting help. The danger is that those with, in some cases, the biggest needs will not be very good at gaming the system. Somebody with autism may be told by their parents to seem as bad as possible so they can get the meter ticking. They are not going to be very skilled at that, but the mums and dads of articulate middle-class people will have a different set of instructions to go on. There will always be a tendency to exaggerate—play up to the full may be a better way of putting it—their needs to get them graded as substantial.
I make these points, not to draw any firm conclusion, not even on the question of whether those with moderate needs should be catered for, but to say that more fundamental thinking has to go into deciding how eligibility criteria should be set and operated. This has not yet been apparent, even in the Government’s improved scheme which is encapsulated in the Bill.