As we come to the end of the current parliament I’m glad I’ve been able to serve the country and my constituents at a time when open, inclusive policy making has been embraced by politicians and the public as never before.
The ongoing engagement activity driving radical reform of care and support in England is a case in point. The Care Act 2014 is a shining example of policy and legislation developed and fine-tuned through full and frank conversations, not just with those working in or with the health and care system, but the people it exists to serve.
Last June, we launched a consultation seeking views on how local authorities should deliver the care and support reforms, for implementation in 2015-16. Your responses were invaluable in shaping the regulations and guidance for councils – making sure they were clear about their responsibilities.
I’m passionate about creating health and care services which support our ageing population to live well and independently for longer. I’m also committed to liberating people from the potentially ruinous financial burden of care in later life. That’s why this new consultation focuses on an aspect of reform which goes to the heart of people’s concerns – the cost of future care.
The cap on care costs, enshrined in the Care Act 2014, puts the risk and fear of catastrophic care costs firmly where they belong: in the confines of history.
In the past there has been a reluctance to address the issue of how people pay for their care and support. In the 1940s, when the welfare state first came into being, living into your 60’s was considered old age. For many, the period between retirement and death was relatively short; meaning the sharing of costs between the individual and state was manageable. In the 21st century, whilst increasing life spans are to be cherished, we have arguably lost that balance – the cap on care costs is our response to that.
The cap protects working age and retired adults from care costs rising above £72,000. We want everyone to feel prepared for old age and have the peace of mind that they are protected from care costs. That’s why we are transforming the way we pay for care in this country, capping costs for the first time and providing financial help to more people. Our changes will make care and support fairer by giving younger people with care needs financial protection for the rest of their lives. And we are making the system fairer for people of working age by enabling them to keep more of their income after charges.
And fairness is driving our decision, as part of this consultation, to consult on policy proposals for a new appeals process. Whilst we expect councils to assess constituents fairly, we also want those affected to be able to challenge decisions they feel do not properly reflect their circumstances. We need a clear, transparent and accessible appeals process. Help us make it that way.
The common thread running through all our Care Act activity is the focus on the individual. From the Dilnot Commission on Funding of Care and Support, through this consultation and beyond, this is about maximising support and eliminating worry for our citizens. After a life time of hard work, why should anyone’s twilight years be blighted by financial worry – not just for them, but their family, friends and carers too? That is why I urge you to take part in this consultation.
There are many details to thrash out, but the prize is peace of mind – and that is a true measure of success.