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Fears that care fee cap could be quietly dropped

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The BBC’s health correspondent has suggested that the much-vaunted plans to introduce a cap on care home fees may never materialise.

The shake-up of the current system was set to take effect in April, but last summer ministers announced that they needed to postpone the change until 2020, amid concerns that the care sector needed sufficient time to prepare.

In an article this month, examining the parlous state of the care system, the journalist Nick Triggle said there were growing doubts if the plan would ever be implemented.

“Officially it still remains policy, but many doubt it will ever see the light of day – even former Care Minister Norman Lamb, one of the architects of the plan, is in this camp,” he said.

“Instead, they believe it is destined to go down on the long list of failed changes to the system.”

Mr Triggle suggested that the prevarication over how best to meet the needs of a system under increasing strain was the latest chapter in a series of failed attempts to introduce fundamental reform.

His article makes the point that the current regime was implemented, alongside the NHS, following the end of the Second World War – an era when people’s average life expectancy was far shorter.

“People are not only living longer, they are surviving with more complex conditions that require care and support. So just at the time when you would expect the amount of support provided by the government to be rising, it is falling,” said the reporter.

“Councils complain they do not have enough money – the Local Government Association estimates the gap between what they need and what they get will be about £4bn by the end of the decade. That would leave them about a third short of what they need.”

Highlighting the failings of the existing system, he made the point that those who pay for their own places at care homes typically end up spending 50 per cent more than the fees councils pay homes.