The Dilnot Report – states the obvious but will be ignored

Posted on: 05 July 2011 by Alexander Hay

The issue of elderly care faces great hurdles

Fun at the care home - but will the elderly keep on getting snookered?

Sometimes a report comes along that not only states the blindingly obvious but does so with such clarity that you want to weep while reading it … because it's clear it will amount to nothing.

Such is the case with the Dilnot report, out yesterday, which states the uncomfortable truths that must be addressed to adequately fund elderly care, and as worthy as the authors' recommendation are they will, inevitably, be ignored.

Is it any stretch to realise that raising the threshold of council assistance for care to £100,000 is a good idea? Or that capping the cost of that care to £35000 is an equally sound suggestion?

The report goes on to state that to fund this ongoing commitment to the obvious, other plain and simple measures like raising taxes or cutting costs elsewhere.

Yes, means testing is to remain in the report's vision, but the threshold would be raised. And the report also calls for minimum standards to apply across the country.

As OlderIsWiser's Director, Sally Greengross said in reply to the report: “It's a really important report that should be adopted by all the main parties. It's a realistic solution to an issue that effects millions of adults and carers.”

She added: “The recommendations present a fair balance of responsibility between the individual and the state, those with wealth and those who are not so fortunate. It must be implemented without delay. We look forward to the government's formal response next Spring with the the bringing out of a white paper.”

It seems clear enough then. But similarly we must recognise that they are observations that will be ignored.

The reasons are threefold - firstly, politics. Dilnot's proposals may be afforded in two ways. Firstly, by cutting funding elsewhere. This is simply not realistic and will cause clashes between would-be winners and losers. Granted, Dilnot may in the long term save us money, but the short term losses may be too high a price to pay.

Meanwhile, raising taxes goes against the grain, especially when the same people who would benefit most from these proposals baulk at the thought of paying for them. In either case, politicians are not bold enough to risk taxpayer wrath.

(Similar myopia applies to all the tea party evangelists in the US who can't afford healthcare but think any reform of the system is 'socialism'.)

The second problem is ideology. While publicly committed to the welfare state, there is a sizeable wing of the coalition-hamstrung Conservative party that won't accept raising taxes or assisting others because it clashes with their ethos of a smaller state, 'personal responsibility' and generally not paying much tax. Regardless of the social cost, the politics of greed invariably rise to the surface of UK society.

Other bad habits of politicians may also interfere. Creating a new care system may lead to ever greater bureaucracy and penny pinching. Just because it's simple and obvious, that's no reason to assume it will be implemented that way. Bad habits linger.

It is true that many people remain in denial over the issue of elder care. For members of the baby boomer generation: in their mid 50s, with nice houses; having benefited from the economic bubbles of the mid 80s and late 90s, the thought of being so infirm that you need long-term care and need to sell up or be means-tested to afford that care, is daunting.

Yet, failing to acknowledge that a full policy shift is necessary and that we must accept the need to meet the cost, is far more likely to imperil your estate. It is clear that with an ageing population, we will have to pay for it sooner or later, and the real choice is whether we all pay a little bit more for that care or some of us end up paying a great deal more. For now, many are content to gamble, and so Dilnot, like many well-intentioned reports before it, will be ignored as a golden opportunity is missed.

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Alexander Hay

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