In the 1980s the government embarked on a policy intended to reduce the number of elderly people staying in hospital, give older people a wider choice of care homes, and encourage the independent sector to provide more nursing and residential care homes for older people. Prior to 1983 there was no limit on the level of the charges which could be met from benefits - and even after 1985, when upper limits were set for weekly charge levels, there was no upper limit
on the size of the supplementary
One of the consequences has been that councils, whose own budgets have remained under pressure throughout the period since 1993, seek to restrict the fees paid to independent care homes. This in turn, it is argued, has led to the closure of many independent care homes.
Better policy analysis in the early 1980s should have told ministers that the number of independent sector providers would grow rapidly if the government was providing unlimited amounts of money - and could have prevented the disruption of recent years. A close look at the mistakes of the 1980s could help today's ministers avoid similar problems.
Director, Rita Hale Associates