Long-awaited moves to overhaul the social care system face yet more delays amid fresh signs of government alarm over their potential cost.
The proposals might not now be published until the autumn, with ministers still agonising over how to afford the burgeoning expense of looking after a rapidly ageing population.
Ministers had been due to publish their response to the Dilnot Commission, which drew up a blueprint for reform, last autumn. Now there are doubts over whether a planned White Paper on the issue will materialise before the Commons rises next month.
Yesterday, a Downing Street spokeswoman would say only that the Bill would be published "within the coming months", but made clear there were problems agreeing how any new system would be funded. "We have to make sure we get reform right to deliver changes to the system that are sustainable," she said.
Under the Dilnot plans, the amount individuals had to pay for social care before the State stepped in would be capped at £35,000, at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of £1.7bn a year.
Matthew Hancock, the Tory MP for West Susffolk, said the Government was moving towards a solution but cross-party agreement was essential.
"The need to tackle the problem of social care and also to ensure that people don't have to sell their homes to pay for it if they don't want to, I think, is vital and is grasped," he told the BBC.
Lord Warner, a Labour peer, warned that the current system was in danger of failing unless action was taken.