My Lords, I will speak to the amendments in this group standing in my name but, before I do so, I should like to offer the strongest possible support for the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, and particularly for the words that he said at the beginning about the information task that we face here. This is not just a question of advising individuals when they go to their councils, although that is important and we have had a debate on that. It is a question of making the whole of our society aware of what is going on against a background of very great ignorance and misinformation. It is crucial that something is done on a real scale to turn that around and that the best communication skills are used in doing so. We have to move from the language that we use in this Chamber as aficionados or geeks studying the detail of the Bill to the general public out there, and that is a hell of a task.
As I said, I will speak to my Amendments 90D, 92ZZB, 92ZZC and 104ZC. Amendments 90D and 92ZZC relate to a topic that we touched on in the debate on the previous amendment—namely, the costs and administrative difficulties for local authorities of introducing the cap in the scheme. The Local Government Association has expanded on the numerics in the briefings for this debate, as has London Councils. I think that the local authorities have a slight tendency to underplay what is going on for fear that the Government will take the whole thing away from them, and they want to be shown as “can do” rather than “can’t do”. When you get into the detail, and look below the politicians in local government at the fine detail of those who have to implement it, you find that it is quite difficult.
The Government have in principle accepted the burdens doctrine, namely that if they make local government do something they will pay for it. They have provided around £335 million to pay for that. None of this extra money is coming now, by the way. The contributions will not start until 2016. Bad though the administrative mess may be, if local government does nothing to prepare for this scheme until 2016 it will certainly fail. Already it is doubtful whether the burdens scheme is really being met. Many of the costings put forward are fingers in the air stuff. The detail has yet to be grappled with. Details crucial to costing the implementation of the scheme, such as the eligibility requirements, are only emerging bit by bit. We do not even know what the government money is supposed to cover. Does it fund in full the cost of additional self-assessments, when the self-funders and people who will potentially benefit from Dilnot queue up for assessments? I really do not think that we know the detail of duties around advice and information, on which we spoke earlier, or on the funding for setting for up new deferred payment schemes.
My change is designed to write into the Bill what is in effect the burdens doctrine. Whatever the cost, the Government must pick it up. It is not as if local authorities have got large chunks of money in their pocket at the moment to reach in and pay for all this stuff. They do not. They cannot afford basic care services at the moment, so this is a huge task. There is a huge task, too, in training the local authority workforce to do assessment and implementation on this scale, and indeed in creating the workforce.
These facts lead me to believe—and I am very glad that my noble friend Lord Warner, with whom I agree on nearly everything, agrees—that it was a terrible mistake to bring forward the start of the scheme from 2017 to 2016. We know why it happened, do we not? The Government found that they had a few spare quid in their pocket, and wanted to be able to tell the electorate that Dilnot was nigh, and so without proper consideration of any kind they brought the date forward. It was a U-turn, and my amendment U-turns on the U-turn to get back to the right place where they were to begin with, namely that the scheme will come in in 2017. This would give it a good chance to work.
I turn now to my other amendments in this group. I hope that we might finally get an actual concession from the Minister, instead of words of great sincerity and great sympathy and not much change. My other amendments in this group refer to the setting up of a ministerial advisory group on the cap and the means test. They insist that this group should be consulted in the planned five-year review of how all of this is working. This is not a criticism of the Department of Health. I have been impressed by how effective officials have been in grasping this scheme, particularly as for most of the time that Dilnot was under consideration they probably thought that it was never going to happen. They are a first-class team, but I do not think that they possess a monopoly on wisdom, and indeed they do not think so, either. The Minister just referred to the working parties with the financial services sectors that have been set up to give advice. I applaud that.
I think that there are complexities in all of this that even the most literate advisers have barely grasped. I will come to some of them, for example when we come to the detail of the proposals on the means test. It would be helpful if Ministers had to hand a helpful advisory group comprising academic experts, local authority representatives, representatives of the financial sector and someone from Dilnot. Maybe the noble Lord, Lord Warner, would like to volunteer. A group of that kind would not second-guess Ministers on every detail, but would offer its general advice on how things are progressing and how they may be set right if there are departures from the course on the way forward.