A flagship government scheme to limit the amount of money people with dementia pay for their own care has been postponed because councils admit they can’t afford it.

A cap on care costs which was due to come into force in April 2016 has been delayed until 2020 and will mean people with dementia continue to face ‘unacceptable costs’ experts warn.

The cap of £72,000 had been welcomed as a way to prevent dementia patients having to spend their life savings, or sell their homes, to pay for nursing care. However the Local Government Association has said that, although it backs the idea of the cap, it couldn’t currently cope with the extra demand the changes would bring.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, expressed ‘disappointment’ at the announcement. ‘This will cause unacceptable costs to continue to be borne by people with dementia and their families into the next decade,’ he said.

The care cap was designed to help anyone over 65 and younger adults with disabilities to pay for care, but people with dementia were in particular need of it, Jeremy Hughes explained. ‘While other diseases receive significantly more support on the NHS, dementia patients, who often need long-term nursing care, are still left to fend for themselves.’

The Government insists it is still ‘firmly committed’ to the cap and to making substantial changes to the care system. However, it accepts that the policy, which was expected to add £6bn to public spending over the next five years, may need rethinking.

Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age, the Older People’s charity warned that the cap ‘must not be quietly abandoned. This is a necessary measure to protect older people against the catastrophic care costs that some will face,’ she adds.