Committee (6th Day)

Part of Care Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 16th July 2013.

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Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 7:00 pm, 16th July 2013

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, explained very clearly, these amendments would mean that the capped system counted time rather than costs. I agree that there are advantages to this approach. The Dilnot commission, in considering this option, said that using years instead of costs would be easier to administer and simpler to understand, and I appreciate those arguments. However, the commission also made the case that to adopt this approach would disadvantage those with more intensive care needs, who over a given period of time could spend significantly more on care than those with less intensive needs, so that what we might gain in simplicity we should lose in fairness. I am sure that we all want to see a fair care and support system giving the most support to those in the greatest need. Using time instead of costs would undermine that goal.

We are committed to using notional spend—in other words, the equivalent of what the local authority would pay to meet an adult’s eligible care needs. As with using time, it is in fact relatively simple to administer because it fits in with the current system of needs assessment. It also ensures that people with more intensive needs are not disadvantaged. That is why the Government agree with the Dilnot Commission, which said,

“the only suitable way of deciding when a person has reached the cap is to meter notional spend.”

The noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, pointed to the understandable fear that Dilnot will mean spending money on administration rather than on meeting people’s needs. I accept that times are challenging for councils, but we are committed to funding these reforms. Critically, we are also committed to co-producing the implementation of the reforms to minimise the bureaucracy that accompanies them and maximise the benefits that they bring. The noble Lord suggested that local authorities might not be ready to implement Dilnot in 2016, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, also asked about this, and whether we were intending to test the robustness of the system. We shall be coming to the issue of readiness in the next group, but I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Warner, that there is sufficient time to develop what he referred to as a taxi-meter system.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, took us to a point that he has made in this Chamber before about Dilnot, and his view that it is fundamentally unfair. I simply say to him that the vast majority of state support, under the Dilnot system, will be provided to the roughly 40% of older people with the lowest income and the lowest wealth. The cap, and the extended means test, provide the most reassurance to that particular group. Our view is that we need a system that protects people with the greatest lifetime care needs. It is not about protecting people with the greatest wealth.

To clarify the question that the noble Lord, Lord Warner, raised in the previous group of amendments about the guidance under Clause 71, this will indeed be statutory guidance, and it will look and feel like a code of practice. Importantly, it will have the same legal status. However, we do not think that guidance should be subject to parliamentary scrutiny every time it is updated, as with a code of practice Statutory guidance under this Bill will have the same status as the current guidance issued under Section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970. I hope that this is helpful.

In a later group of amendments we will come to what local authorities think about the new system and indeed the whole area of financial services. However, I was reassured that the Local Government Association said that it fully supports and welcomes the inclusion of a cap on what an individual will pay. The Association of British Insurers has welcomed the announcement that we have made as a positive step forward in tackling the challenges of an ageing society. Arising out of that is a sector-led review that is working constructively with government to understand how the market will develop and create the right environments for products to succeed. That review will be completed over the summer.

I hope that with those comments the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, will for now be content to withdraw his amendment. I hope that he found my comments, if not ones that he can agree with immediately, at least ones that he will put into the context of the Bill in, I hope, a manner that he will understand.