"Dead on arrival": The Dilnot Commission presents problems for the Coalition
By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter
The Dilnot Commission - chaired by economist and former IFS Director Andrew Dilnot - which looks at the funding of care for elderly people, is released today. Recommendations include raising the means-testing threshold from £23,500 to £100,000 (in assets), and capping care costs at £35,000. The government's main sentiment seems to be that the cost of the recommendations - £1.7billion a year - is politically troubling, although they think the ideas are good.
The Treasury doesn't like the sound of the cost. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley referred to (£) the Dilnot Commission as merely "the basis for engagement" on elderly care. The Telegraph's Ben Brogan raises three points: the Dilnot report is "dead on arrival", according to one Cabinet member, taxes may have to be raised to pay for the implementation of the report, and:
"the beneficiaries will be people with assets to protect, and the political minds in No10 worry that some will conclude that Dilnot is an expensive way of helping mainly Tory voters. Forget that it also means those with no assets will get their care for free. In an age of austerity, there is great nervousness about lavishing money on those who have it already, as it were. Which is why Team Dave are talking up the need for consensus and want to see what Ed Miliband will say."
So it seems the government is unlikely to proceed with the proposals, as they are, for the moment. The government therefore has two options: delay the plan until (the Treasury hopes) they are in a better position to afford nearly £2billion for elderly care. Luckily for the Dilnot Commission, the recommendations are not due to be implemented before about 2014 or 2015... which the election co-ordinating Chancellor will undoubtedly have noticed coincides with the probable date of the next election.
The other option, and the one that the government apparently initiated last week, is to go down the route Ed Miliband is offering: cross-party talks (amusingly, Miliband urged Ministers to "get round the table" with him, indicating he hasn't learnt from that interview). This may turn out to be an unpopular and unworkable idea - cross-party talks on the same issue collapsed in the months leading up to the last general election, with Andrew Lansley condemning then-Health Secretary Andy Burnham's plans as a "death tax". If cross-party talks break down, Ed Miliband may accuse Cameron of political cowardice, fear of reform, and so on. A final element for the government to consider is Dilnot himself: at the launch of the report this morning, he sounded confident the Coalition would implement his proposals, in his words, "with pace".
On Comment, Andrew Lilico asks "Why shouldn't the state demand assistance - if not financial, then as carers - from children and grandchildren, if they are wealthy enough to provide it?" - Family-based welfare