Lamb calls for speedy conclusion of care funding debate
By Richard Johnstone in Brighton | 26 September 2012
The new care services minister Norman Lamb has said he wants the adult social care funding crisis to be resolved in months, rather than years.
Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat conference, Lamb floated the idea of an independent facilitator to help work out how to pay for the Dilnot Commission’s proposed reforms, particularly the £35,000 cap on individuals’ costs. Funding above this would come from the state, at an estimated cost of around £1.7bn.
The government ‘has talked about [the fact] we would like to do this’, Lamb said, ‘but we need to find where the money comes from’.
In an update on funding reform earlier this year, the government said it backed the Dilnot Commission’s July 2011 recommendations but that no decision on funding would be made before the next Spending Review.
Yesterday Lamb said: ‘The risk is that this just drifts on – the sector saying there’s a need for reform, the sense of unfairness continues but nothing actually brings it to a head.’
Stating that he had ‘no interest in presiding over long grass’, he added: ‘What I’m interested in exploring is whether we can create a mechanism over a short space of time to bring this to a conclusion, I’m talking about [a period of] months not years.’
He said that introducing the reform for social care funding could be a legacy for the government. The Dilnot proposal will allow the pooling of the risks of ‘catastrophic’ care costs, as high as £100,000, that will hit one in ten people, he said.
‘This issue transcends narrow party politics. It is the big reform that is yet to take place, it is very long overdue and there is a moment, and opportunity, to crack it, and I think there a responsibility on this government to crack it.’ he said.
‘But I would like to do it as far as possible in a consensual way, a process that involves all the parties, that everyone can sign up to. Question: should some independent facilitator help to bring this to a conclusion? I would want to do this over a short space of time. Question: will the Treasury allow that sort of process to come up with recommendations? Treasury, of course, has to be responsible for the decision at a time of acute strain on our public finances. There has to be a complete discipline to how the government operates, and we have to respect that, but could there be a process that helps bring this to a conclusion?’
He added: 'We need to have a process that looks at the options and seeks to reach a conclusion, and I would prefer it to involve all the political parties so that everyone signs up to it.
'In terms of the process I’m really just exploring, and I don’t have a fixed mind on this at all, how we get from here to a conclusion.’