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Social care: Government reviews and policy proposals for paying for care since 1997 (England)

This House of Commons Library briefing considers the policy proposals of successive Governments since 1997 for how individuals should pay for their social care.

Unlike health services through the NHS, social care is not universally free at the point of delivery – local authority support is means-tested, and those that receive funding such support are still expected to contribute their income towards the cost.

While the issue of paying for social care has been considered in depth – by the Royal Commission in 1999, the independent King’s Fund in 2005 (which the Government subsequently acknowledged), and the “Dilnot Commission” in 2011 – and some important changes have been made, the key features of the means-test remain broadly unchanged since 1997 while the issue of very high lifetime social care bills remains unresolved.

This note sets out the key findings of the reviews as they relate to how individuals pay for their social care, Government policy responses, and the position of the current Conservative Government.

Social care funding is a devolved matter – this note relates to England only, although it does provide information about the adaptation of free personal care in Scotland following the report of the Royal Commission.