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Written Statement - Further Update on Reform of the Arrangements for Paying for Social Care and Support

Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services

I updated Members on 6 May on the programme of work being taken forward to introduce further reform to the arrangements for paying for social care and support in Wales. This is to make those arrangements fairer and more sustainable than at present. This is a further update.

At that time, I informed Members of the work completed to date. This was in the form of an independent research study undertaken (which identified options for reform) and a report produced by the Paying for Care Stakeholder Advisory Group (which provided its views on these options and on reform more widely). I published both documents at that time.

I also outlined the key related issues which we needed to be clear on to develop our reform given the potential for them to influence materially the nature of that reform. These were the detail of the reform plans proposed in England (and hence what consequential funding may flow to Wales as a result of new funding being provided for this) and the position on further reform of welfare benefits and pensions (given such incomes provide the means by which many people pay for the care and support they receive). Members will be aware that since then the UK Government has announced it is to defer its paying for care reform in England, and confirmation of any consequential funding, until 2020 at the earliest. In addition, we have yet to see confirmation by the UK Government of the detail of the future rollout of welfare reform across the UK.  

The continuation of this situation means that unfortunately I am still not in a position to make informed decisions about reforms I would wish to make to reduce the burden upon citizens in Wales of funding their care and support. Nevertheless, I would not wish our significant advances to date to come to a halt and I have asked my officials to revisit the options for reform identified in our research so that we can explore fully the opportunities to help people pay for care and support. In this context I am pleased to reportwe have moved ahead with implementing an updated financial assessment and charging framework under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, which I indicated was my intention in my earlier written statement. This will become effective from April next year when the provisions of the Act come into force. It will introduce clear and consistent financial assessment and charging arrangements based, to a large extent, on current arrangements but strengthened in a number of important areas. I am confident the new framework will apply greater consistency and clarity to the financial assessment and charging process and provide a sound base upon which further substantive reform can be introduced. The regulations and code of practice relating to Parts 4 and 5 of the Act to introduce the updated framework were laid before the National Assembly on 3 November and can be accessed at:

http://www.assembly.wales/en/bus-home/Pages/Plenary.aspx?category=Laid Document

The key elements of the framework include:

  • one set of financial assessment and charging arrangements for non-residential and residential care and support rather than one for each at present; 
  • maintaining the present weekly maximum charge and “buffer” for non-residential care and support, as well as the current capital limit used to determine who pays the full cost of their residential care themselves;  
  • maintaining the current individuals, and forms of care and support, for which a charge cannot be made and introducing a new provision of up to six weeks free reablement to enable a person to maintain or regain their ability to live independently so as to promote the prevention ethos of the Act;
  • introducing more transparency by extending the requirement for all those who receive a charge to receive a statement detailing this and its calculation;
  • introducing a consistent, universal review process to enable a person to query charges made and correct errors; 
  • maintaining deferred payments in residential care to enable those whose property may need to be sold to pay for this to delay its sale until a time more appropriate for them; and by introducing the ability of a local authority to charge a low set rate of interest on the amount deferred. This will help make such arrangements cost neutral to authorities; and, 
  • allowing authorities to recover charges and to create a charge over land where a debt occurs.

In confirming this, I have decided to increase the level of the minimum income amount (currently known as the personal expenses allowance) which care home residents who are supported by a local authority may retain from their income for their own personal expenditure. This will increase from £25.50 per week currently to £26.50 per week. I am also able to confirm that I am increasing the level of the disregard applied to War Disablement Pensions in financial assessments. In 2016-17 injured veterans in receipt of such a pension will receive a disregard of £25 per week of this in any assessment for charging for care and support, rather than £10 per week at present. This follows a campaign by the Royal British Legion to increase this disregard. Depending upon the financial circumstances at the time it is my intention that the level of this disregard will be increased further incrementally over the next Assembly term.

Both of these changes will apply from 6 April next year when the Act, and the regulations made under it, come into force. I hope you find this positive and can assure you that I will continue to give this matter full attention.