When we launched the Big Care Debate in July, our plan was to start a nationwide discussion on the reform of adult care and support in England.
With well over 3,000 responses to this website alone, the consultation period is so far living up to its name. I would like to thank everyone who has contributed so far, and urge you to encourage others to do the same.
Among the responses, the issue of benefits is the one getting the most attention.
As we say in Shaping the Future of Care Together, we think there is a case for bringing some disability benefits and the new social care system together into a single system.
We are considering the role of disability benefits in the context of the overall system of disability-related support, and see this as a potentially better way of providing support through the new National Care Service.
The Big Care Debate is a consultation about options for long-term reform, and it is vital that everyone has the opportunity to contribute to this important public debate.
We will only make any changes to disability benefits if we know that by doing so we can better support the needs of older and disabled people.
Whatever changes are made, we want to ensure that people receiving any of the relevant benefits at the time of reform would continue to receive an equivalent level of support and protection, under a new and better care and support system.
Our aim is to create a National Care Service that is fair, simple and affordable for all – one that ensures that everyone in the country gets the care and support they need and that fits the way they choose to live their lives, not one that is dictated by others.
To achieve this, we must end the unfairness, inconsistency and complexity that people find in the care and support system as it currently exists.
Many of the responses we have received are passionate in their defence of the current system, spelling out how a large number of people rely on Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance to maintain their quality of life. We have also heard from a lot of working age people who are worried that their DLA will be taken away from them.
The DLA did not feature in any of our modelling when we wrote the Green Paper. The Impact Assessment shows that we were looking at Attendance Allowance.
We fully understand why the current disability benefits are popular. They provide a universal entitlement which does not depend on where a person lives. They provide a cash budget, which can be spent on the services someone wants, and people often use them to support lower-level needs that help them stay well for longer.
These three aspects will all be important components of the new care and support system.
However, we also know that there are problems with the overall support available to older and disabled people through the current social care and disability benefits systems.
These two systems were developed separately, with the result that they are fragmented and can be difficult to understand, access and navigate.
People have to apply separately for disability benefits and social care, which can put some off applying for all the support they could be entitled to. They also face different needs assessment processes, adding confusion, and there can be some inconsistency and unfair outcomes because the criteria by which public funds are allocated are entirely different. Our vision is that we bring them together into one new system.
We believe that reform provides an opportunity to build on the strengths of both systems to produce a better system of overall support.