The proposal to cap care costs to £72,000 has received a lot of media coverage since it was originally proposed by the Dilnot Commission back in 2011. All the focus of the debate was around older people who have saved over their lifetime and now find they have to use these savings to pay for care. But what about people who have needs for care and support during their working life? How would such a system work for them?
Dilnot's solution for this group was to make the cap lower as they would have had less chance to save. But, this misses the point that losing your savings to pay for care is not the major issue for most working-age disabled people. For many it is the rules on charging out of income rather than out of savings which matter most, and these rules are tough - even people whose only source of income is benefits can find they are charged a significant proportion of their weekly income to cover their care. Not only that, but they can be charged more, up to £50 per week more than an older person.
When the Government began to consult on how the working age cap should work, this was one area where there was consensus. There is no logic to these rules - working-age disabled people do not need less money to live on than older people. The amount you can be left with is low - Income Support plus 25%. Every penny of chargeable income (mostly benefits and pensions, earned income doesn't count) can be taken in charges. And increasingly as councils struggle with funding cuts people on benefits are being charged up to the maximum allowable.
Living with a disability can be expensive, and disability benefits don't always compensate for these costs. Research published in January showed the range of additional costs of living for people who are sight impaired or deaf. Many of these costs are covered by neither social care nor disability benefits. Unemployment amongst people with sensory loss is high as even those who could work in theory struggle to find employers willing to make the necessary adjustments to enable this. Many have progressive conditions so their prospects of finding work will only get less as their hearing and sigh deteriorate. They may live many years on extremely low income still being charged for their care.
One deafblind person I met recently pays charges of £89 per week, despite the fact that his only income is benefits, and he has to find the additional costs of living associated with dual sensory loss. The charges are entirely lawful, but they mean he faces decades of living on income so low that he cannot find things like gym membership to enable him to keep fit.
The consultation on the cap on care costs is now published and can be read at http://careact2016.dh.gov.uk/.
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