Dilnot report: Where's the money?

Care worker with elderly man Image copyright SPL
Image caption Over the next 20 years, the numbers needing care are predicted to rise from just under 6m to 7.6m

Everyone agrees something should be done. Everyone agrees this is a decision for the long term.

Everyone agrees it would be best to take politics out of the issue of long term care for the elderly.

True today. True anytime over the past decade. That, though, is not enough to make something happen.

Andrew Dilnot believes that he has cracked the intellectual problem with his proposal for a cap on the personal costs of care.

It is designed not just to reduce people's fears about losing their house and savings but to persuade the financial services industry to come up with products which will help people plan for the possibility of needing care in their old age - not just insurance policies but also equity release schemes and plans to allow people to get less out of their pension when well and more when in need.

What he has not cracked - although he has tried - is the political problem.

As the newspaper coverage of this report shows, people tend to focus not on the good news - the costs that are capped - but on the bad - the costs below the cap or so-called "hotel costs" which are not covered by the cap.

The fear for ministers is that if they drive the Dilnot plan through they will be blamed for the bad and given no credit for the good while ending up having to find £2-3bn extra to pay for it.

What all this may reveal is that, once again, voters will the ends but not the means.

In other words, people believe that they should get free care when old (after all, goes the argument, health care is free) while not be willing to pay for it through taxes when working or through their savings after retirement.

Thus - as I posted on Friday - their challenge to Dilnot's backers will be "tell us where you'd find the money".

One modest proposal campaigners for the elderly may wish to consider - how about inviting politicians to stop giving wealthy pensioners winter fuel allowance, free TV licences and free bus passes?