Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Dilnot or Not Dilnot - The think tank question

At the start of the month there was a call from the think tank, Centre Forum, for Winter Fuel payments to be concentrated on those who receive pension credits in order to fund the reforms proposed by the Dilnot Commission, particularly those focused on capping the cost of care for individuals who have to contribute to their care costs.

This week another think tank, the Centre for Social Justice, have called for the Dilnot Commission proposals to be ignored stating, “Whilst the CSJ is not against the Dilnot proposals in principle, it insists this measure must come further down the Government’s priority list. Any new funding, says the CSJ, should be targeted at the poorest people in the current means tested system who have few or no assets. It adds that the Dilnot plans are the wrong priority at the wrong time.”

Naturally the question many will ask is who is right yet, perhaps, it would pay to look a little deeper.

Both think tanks describe themselves as independent organisations. The Centre Forum describes itself as liberal and there can be no doubt of its Lib Dem leanings, just a quick glimpse at its advisory board will tell you that. The Centre for Social Justice has a distinctly Conservative flavour, founded by Iain Duncan Smith and currently chaired by Mark Florman, a former senior deputy treasurer of the Conservative Party.

Obviously it could be entirely coincidental that the Centre for Social Justice raise the issue of the Dilnot proposals in the same month as Centre Forum, in which case we are faced with the equally daunting case of bewilderingly mixed messages being sent out by organisations with very close links to senior coalition Ministers.

So is Dilnot the solution for social care or not?

Perhaps surprisingly of the two messages it is the Centre for Social Justice who stress the current care crisis calling it a broken system stating “People delivering care services can think of much better ways to spend the £3.5billion that is about to be invested in the Dilnot proposals.” The CSJ focus on the elements of the care crisis that will not be settled with the capping of care cost, such as 15 minute home care visits and “Tackling the destructive underpayment from Councils to care homes which forces many providers to cut corners”.

Centre Forum on the other hand focused on paying for the Dilnot proposals and the particularly controversial idea of withdrawing the Winter Fuel Allowance as a universal benefit and calling for “ the "appropriate legislative levers" to be inserted into the draft care and support bill so that the Dilnot Commission's proposals on care financing can be delivered in full by the end of this parliament.

Certainly, as I have argued before, the Dilnot Commission was limited in its scope, focusing almost entirely on who pays for care and bypassing the crucial question of how much does quality care actually cost. It also has some short comings in terms of the reality of imposing a cap (see The Social Care Capping Debate MUST be Wider) and is unclear on how some of the proposals will impact on younger adults who need care and support services (Isolated and Underfunded). Yet it remains an important part of the debate.


The danger is that with two think tanks with close connections to the coalition partners calling for different approaches to social care that the debate with Government will become protracted to the extent we see nothing happening in this Parliament and social care left in the wilderness for another few years until the next Government either acts or, as previous Governments have done, prevaricates over social care to the detriment of the millions who need or provide care services.