Could care of the elderly haunt the Conservatives?

Care worker helping an elderly woman

It was promised last autumn. Then it was the spring. Publication slipped until June and now we are told there will be nothing on government proposals to reform the funding of adult social care in England until at least July.

I have been given an exclusive insight into why the Treasury is dithering on Dilnot.

The coalition agreement says the government "understands the urgency" of reform, but it's almost a year since the Dilnot Commission sent ministers its recommendations on how to provide an affordable and sustainable system, and it is hard not to conclude that promised urgency has given way to indecision.

It may be overstating it slightly, but some commentators believe that "flunking" reform of adult social care may be to the Tories what the issue of tuition fees has been to the Liberal Democrats.

Forty-four per cent of pensioner votes went to the Conservatives at the last election with the Tory manifesto promising "to protect" older people from having to sell their home to fund residential care costs.

So what is going on?

Whispers from Whitehall tell a story of agonising inside the Treasury - not only the question "Can we afford it?", but also asking "Is Dilnot's solution the right one?"

The commission's plan is for a cap on how much individuals must fork out before the state starts paying the bills. Recommending it be set at £35,000, the cost to the Treasury is put at around £1.7bn a year.

Two NHS staff walk with an elderly patient

But with a second round of deep public sector cuts in the offing, the question being asked is whether the government can really agree to spend close to another couple of billion on subsidising residential care costs for people who may be relatively affluent in terms of property. What extra cuts would you make to find the money?

It would hardly play to the slogan "all in this together" if vast sums were taken from services to the most vulnerable and transferred into the legacies of well-off baby boomers.

Treasury officials have been looking at whether the money could be found from cuts to other services currently provided to the same group. Should winter fuel allowance and free TV licences be means tested? What about the state pension? For the moment, it seems the politics and economics of such moves cannot be made to add up.

There's another problem with the Dilnot plan, as far as the Treasury is concerned - it doesn't quite answer the conundrum of how to fund social care for those people who don't have the savings or capital to pay for it. At the moment this is paid for out of local authority budgets.

Allow me to introduce you to the "Barnet graph of doom".

Screenshot of "Barnet graph of doom"

This was a slide presented as part of a budget consultation in the borough last autumn which showed that, unless things change dramatically, within 20 years Barnet Council will be "unable to provide any services except adult social care and children's services: no libraries, no parks, no leisure centres - not even bin collections".

The "Barnet graph of doom" has been doing the rounds in Whitehall, adding to the sense that Andrew Dilnot's proposals do not provide a solution to the care funding crisis. Mr Dilnot would argue that he has already factored in the demographics of an ageing population, but Treasury officials remain unconvinced.

My understanding is that the social care bill announced in the Queen's Speech is likely to offer warm words but little or nothing on cold cash - "a white paper with green tinges" as one senior official described it to me.

The political implications may be significant at the next election. Will the grey vote forgive the Conservatives if the social care funding issue is effectively hoofed into the long grass for the remainder of this Parliament?

Mark Easton, Home editor Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

More on This Story


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Could care of the elderly haunt the Conservatives?

    You mean like it haunted Labour for 13 years?

    Another biased Guardian header from the BBC's 'expert' as this kind of header not used for Labour govt?

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.


    "...we're all living longer because of the Tories?..."


    How many times must people fall for this?

    We are NOT all living longer.

    Life expectancy for those alive today, by definition, does not include those born at the same time but WHO ARE ALREADY DEAD.

    As there's an ageing demographic bulge, of course that figure is rising no matter how few the survivors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    Yet again, this article discusses the elderly while completely ignoring people with disabilities. This is typical of press coverage, public perceptions and government attitudes. For instance, in Scotland the elderly get free social care but people with disabilities do not. Selling your home to pay for care is bad at the end of your life, but even worse when you could have decades left to live.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    A civilised society takes care of the old, the young & the sick. Indeed, if it fails to do so, a society is not civilised. We should recognise the ailments of aging as sickness, and hence covered by the NHS.

    We must guarantee a decent minimum of free support for the elderly that is much better than what we offer now at significant cost to them.

    Or we can consider ourselves animals in the jungle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    Perhaps another spiteful decision eminating from the Ministry of Iain Duncan Smith? IDS closed down hundreds of Remploy factories thousands of disabled people forced into unemployment

    The closures were based upon an independent review conducted by Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK.

    Blimey if I was disabled I want another organisation to support me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.


    It must be very nice and safe for you to spout off such offensive rubbish. Any other decent human would be caring and humane towards our elders. They deserve respect and thanks for all their hard work.

    One day you too will be faced with the prospect of depending upon some form of care.

    You better pray that the carers never find out how offensive you have been.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

    Leveson should investigate BBC's left wing muck raking as is biased & against interests of balanced reporting.
    This appears to me to be typical Easton anti-Tory trouble-making which sickens me as a BBC licence payer.
    Fact is present system was inherited by in a mess, after 13 years of Labour corruption

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    we need to demand that Politicians at Westminster should solve the problem of funding social care rather than scoring sterile debating points off each other.Dillnot has some of the answers together with a levy on iheritances and compulsory insurance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    41 Minutes ago
    Tories have shafted everyone in england, save their millionaire buddies.

    Well that's fine then. Any party "supported only by millionaires" won't win a single seat at the next GE. Nor ever again. problem solved!

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Well, it's a Coalition actually. Granted it is driven by the Conservatives, with the tacit support and gutless sycophancy of the formerly credible Lib Dems. As for the elderly doing the haunting? So many of us have been shafted by these toadying rich boys that I suspect it they will have more than just the elderly to worry about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    #163. Blueberry
    Care for the Elderly is already Means Tested. If you have assets over £23k you pay towards your care. If you have nothing but your basic State Pension they take that too and give you £20 a week back as spending money!
    Nigel Lawson introduced the system as part of the privatisation of Care for the Elderly.
    Those expecting to inherit their parents house are the most aggrieved,

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    One tries to comment constructively, or at least sensibly (see 175) and the reward as usual is 'nul points'. Meanwhile, whatever the topic, the vilest, bitterest, most ignorant and acutely partisan comments of the leftward tendency dominate the ratings. What is the point of HYS? There is no worthwhile debate here and I have been wasting my time looking for it. I quit!

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    To 173 Empiredown..

    The condems have a cunning Plan to get rid of the grey vote.

    At the age of retirement your entitlement to vote will be revoked as you will no longer contribute to society.

    Or alternatively a suicide pill will be issued to all new retirees to be used in the event they require the care of the state.

    Would that suit you ? Mr Empiredown..

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    179- AndyC555

    The cuts you are so proud of, in healthcare, social care, ladders for us plebs to have a slim chance at greatness, are whats being cut. Not minister wages, not levies given to banks, not bailout money. And those cuts are being handed to banks, and spent on mad little projects, like trident redesigning and a second london underground system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    177 - Sergoba

    Stop playing the politics game. You think we're all living longer because of the Tories? You don't want cuts but you want the deficit reduced?

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    4.Rufus McDufus
    7 Hours ago
    Doesn't say much for the people who were in charge before the current government decided to address the problem


    Actually if you will notice the current government have NOT yet decided to address the problem they are just 'kicking the can down a dusty road' in the hope it will go away....

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    Tories have shafted everyone in england, save their millionaire buddies. Have the actually delivered a single thing in their manifesto, apart from the promise of cuts? They havent even lowered the deficit, its gotten BIGGER.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    So if a person has paid into a pension for their whole working life, and it disappears due to sharp practice - that's OK then?

    As for workhouses, I think we already have them in the UK - but they are not registered for tax purposes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Why "the Conservatives"? The problem has been building for decades. Labour did nothing in their 13 years. Surprise; they were content to see home-owners and savers robbed of all they possessed. We need a fair solution, insurance or tax-revenue based and providing dignity for all, that protects the poor, yes, but also lets others preserve and pass on a substantial part of what they have worked for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    I'll accept Logan's Run if I can be looked after by Jenny Agutter.


Page 1 of 10



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.