Care Minister Gillian Keegan has announced that the Government is delaying self-funders access to lower local authority fee rates by 18 months. In a statement on Thursday 7 July 2022, Gillian Keegan outlined that following consultation on the implementation of change with local authorities, the Government has decided to utilise the extension of section 18(3) of the Care Act 2014 by 18 months. This means that self-funded people living in residential care will be eligible to ask for councils to arrange care on their behalf from April 2025 at the latest. The reason for this delay is due to local authorities who warned that they did not have the funding or workforce to be able to cover the implementation of the reform.
How was this delay received?
There was an element of frustration voiced by Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group, who stated:
“Many warned the Government that there was not enough money available to enable councils to pay a fair price for care and therefore make the changes fair for those who pay for their own care and fair to hard-pressed and cash-strapped care providers who currently face great challenges just to survive. Now the whole thing is being kicked down the road for 18 months and we are no further forward.”
Whereas this was in contrast to the view of professor Martin Green OBE, and CEO of Care England who declared:
“I welcome the fact that the government has delayed the implementation of Section 18.3. This measure could have taken significant money out of the social care sector, and we need more time for the government to establish how they are going to make this workable, and have enough money available to sustain an already pressurised social care sector.”
Concerns around the feasibility of introducing section 18(3) of the Care Act 2014 come amidst the significant backlog of care assessments compounded by social worker vacancies and high turnover of staff. Local authorities are worried they don’t have enough practitioners to implement the reforms.
How has the Government responded?
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said:
“We’re limiting the cost of social care so people keep more of their savings, and know they will not face spiralling charges if they need long term care in the future. Everyone who needs care will benefit from the cap on care costs that will be introduced from October 2023. We have worked with the sector to understand how best to implement changes to the charging system. By extending self-funders’ rights to local authority commissioning in a phased way, local authorities will be able to secure affordable and quality care for all who need it, ensuring a smooth transition and certainty and stability for the sector during a time of reform.”
Boris Johnson had promised to address and fix social care on his first day in office as Prime Minister however, the delay and his own resignation announced 7 July 2022 means he will not be able to do so.