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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 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. Further information on the current Government’s proposals can be found in the Library’s briefing paper, Social care: the Conservative Party’s 2017 General Election pledges on how individuals pay for care (England).

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

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