My Lords, my noble friend will not be surprised if I gently defend the Dilnot commission’s recommendations on a cap. His final suggestion of putting his proposal in the bottom drawer was actually rather good. I remind the House that as a young civil servant I was once the recipient of a Health Minister’s regular manuscript notes asking me about progress on various matters. They ended up in my bottom draw because he had usually forgotten about them. Putting this recommendation in the bottom draw may be the best thing to do.
I think that my noble friend has forgotten the task that the Dilnot commission was set. It was not the case that we just brought a cap out of the ether and projected it on to an unsuspecting world. We were trying to fulfil the task that we were given, which was to make recommendations on how,
“to achieve an affordable and sustainable funding system … for care and support for all adults in England, both in the home and in other settings”.
In particular, we were asked to examine,
“how best to meet the costs of care and support as a partnership between individuals and the state … how people could choose to protect their assets, especially their homes, against the costs”,
“how both now and in the future public funding for the care and support system can be best used to meet care and support needs”.
I suggest that to fulfil those requirements it is probably better to concentrate on money and try to achieve a credible system than to concentrate on time. One of our main purposes was to project the idea that if we could get citizens to be more engaged with the realities of a means-tested adult social care system, they would plan for the future in a better way than at present. Money is the currency in which they would be thinking, to all intents and purposes. That is why we came up with the idea of a cap.
My noble friend is right to ask how well prepared local government is to introduce this system. There are some genuine concerns about that, which we will debate later. However, he is a little pessimistic about our ability to develop, perhaps over a longer period than the Government might like, a taxi-meter system that works for the Dilnot proposals. They are essentially a taxi-meter system. You need to clock up the costs that are being spent over time until you reach the cap. There is a thing called IT; it is not always well used in the public sector but it is possible to take the pain out of all this. We as a commission did not envisage a new pencil-and-paper system that 152 local authorities would reinvent in individual and separate ways. It is a complex system but it is actually not that difficult to manage, once you get into the swing of it.
I say very gently to the Minister and to my noble friend that we sweated blood for about a year to try to get a very large number of people to agree on a way forward. This is not the time to go back to square one and think of another way of doing it.