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Dilnot Commission report raises concerns on portability

(14 April 2011)

A new report by the commission set up to examine the long-term funding of care and support in England has raised concerns that the independent body could be set to ignore key demands of disabled people and their organisations.

The report [PDF file: 96 KB] by the Commission on Funding of Care and Support – set up by the government and chaired by economist Andrew Dilnot – summarises more than 250 responses that were received following a call for evidence.

The report repeatedly refers to responses calling for portable assessments – allowing disabled people to move house without having to be reassessed on their needs by their new local authority.

But it does not mention that some disabled people’s organisations called for portability of entire care packages, which would allow people to claim the same level of support if they moved to a new local authority area.

Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living, said the need for portability of care packages was “pretty fundamental”.

She said: “There is not much point in having portability of assessments. You really have to go the whole way to make a difference and guarantee people’s independent living wherever they live in the country.”

She said she believed the commission did not understand the importance of real portability to disabled people because “they cannot think in terms of people having ordinary lives”.

Marije Davidson, public affairs manager for RADAR, which also backed portability of care packages, said portable assessments would be “welcome but would not solve the problem”.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the report was “a summary” and “not an exhaustive list of everything everybody mentioned” and so “does not in any way mean that nobody called for portability of care packages”.

She claimed the summary did not “reflect the commission’s thinking” and was “purely a summary of what people wrote in to them”.

There were also concerns after Dilnot apparently rejected the idea of funding free care and support for disabled and older people through an increase in general taxation or national insurance.

Dilnot claimed there was “considerable support” for both the state and individuals contributing to the cost of care, although he accepted there was also “strong support from some” for the free care option.

But he added: “Whilst there are some who would still like to see free care, we can see a growing understanding that a truly sustainable solution is going to come from responsibility being shared between the individual and the state.”

Davidson said there was wide support for a tax-funded system of free care – similar to the NHS – and questioned where this “growing understanding” was coming from.

Bott said she was also disappointed by Dilnot’s remarks and said it was “pretty pointless” consulting with large numbers of people and groups – who supported free care – “if you are not then going to take account of what those people and groups say”.

The commission also said that those responding had stressed that disabled people of working age with support needs “did not have the same opportunity to build up assets or income” as those who develop needs as they grow older and so would need to continue to be covered by a “safety net”.

And they raised concerns that the current “safety net” was “underfunded”, with eligibility “tightening to unacceptable levels”, while there were also complaints about the impact of councils charging for support.

The commission is due to report its findings to the government by the end of July.

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