My Lords, I rise again as the keeper of the Dilnot tablets on the subject of deferred payments. If we had intended that access to a deferred payment scheme was to be limited to people with assets less than £23,000, we would have said so in our report. That was not what we intended. I commend the report to the noble Lord, and I hope the House will forgive me if I just cite a few bits of it.
I refer the noble Lord to page 41 of our report. We said:
“Evidence submitted to the Commission suggests that the availability and use of deferred payment schemes is patchy”,
and we went on to explain that. The government consultation document suggests that it will continue to be pretty patchy as well because very few people are likely to come forward for this. We said—and this was a recommendation:
“At a minimum, the Commission recommends an extension to the current deferred payment scheme so that it is a full, universal offer across the country.”
That is what we said.
The Government have given the impression in various interviews—I have gone head to head with government spokesmen about this on a number of programmes—that they were going to support an extended deferred payment scheme and that it would be pretty much similar across the country. If you had a deferred payment scheme in Cumberland, it would look remarkably like a deferred payment scheme in Cornwall. It seems that we are getting into a position where none of this will be the case. It is pretty rough on the public if the Government and their spokesmen are giving the impression that they are implementing the Dilnot recommendations on deferred payment schemes when they are palpably not doing so under the present set of proposals as I understand them.
It is not too late for the sinner to repent—the consultation period is open until later this month. However, it is necessary to revisit this in terms of what government policy is on this particular issue, both in terms of access to a deferred payment scheme and on the issue of a model scheme. The two go hand in hand. It is no good having a model scheme if it is a model scheme for a handful of cases in different parts of the country. We need a model scheme that is actually available so that people who want to cope with the issue of how they fund their care can access a deferred payment scheme. It is always a risk when you are on a committee such as the Dilnot committee that, quietly and unobtrusively, the bureaucracies will nibble away at well intentioned recommendations. Some of us have had this experience ourselves, and some of us have done a bit of nibbling as well from time to time as civil servants, so we recognise nibbling when it is going on. We are in that position here.
It is down to the Minister to start some discussions about this issue, not to leave things to the marketplace, and not to give the public impression that there is going to be a widely available deferred payments scheme when, in fact, it is going to be available only to a fairly limited number of people.