Social Care Under Scrutiny by Parliament – what is the future for care funding?
The state of the social care system is never far from the news these days. Whilst the NHS is to receive a significant increase in funding, the Government is yet to grasp the mettle regarding the crisis in funding for social care with the recent Green Paper due to be published this summer having already been delayed by months.
In the meantime the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee and Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee have just published their own joint report on their recommendations for the long-term funding of adult social care.
The report finds that the current social care system is in a perilous state. Despite some additional funding coming from the Government, and increases in council tax revenue which contributes towards spending in social care, there is currently a circa £2.5 billion annual shortfall in funds, which on current figures could be closer to £8 billion by 2030. The fact that this is an escalating shortfall comes due to the almost perfect storm of an ageing population, increasing occurrence of long term illness and co-morbidities resulting in complex care needs, at a time when we are in a prolonged era of austerity and significantly decreased public spending.
As a result of this financial pressure we find that more and more people with care needs are either going without care, or are only having care needs met which are essential for basic survival as opposed to the aspirations of the Care Act 2014 which sought to also cater to general wellbeing. Those with care needs, who do not meet the financial eligibility criteria for financial support (which rates are extremely low in the first place and have not been increased since 2010) are left having to face potentially catastrophic care fees.
The recommendations in the report are laudable, and it will be of no surprise that increased funding is paramount. In the absence of the magic money tree, the Joint Committees suggest that additional funding should come from a combination of sources such as:
- increased local revenue raising through a revamp of the existing Council Tax banding and retention of 100% of local business rates
- increased national revenue raising through increased tax payments, including income tax and inheritance tax. A popular concept would be a model similar to existing National Insurance premiums which is also contributed to by employers.
Assuming that sufficient funding could be raised, the report considers what an optimal social care system would look like for the individual. Good quality care would mean increased integration of health and social care systems, increased pay and status for care workers, the provision of free personal care (akin to the Scottish System) with only accommodation costs being subject to means assessment, with the introduction of a cap and an increased floor in this assessment. A cap would mean an absolute limit to the amount an individual would have to pay for their care, and a floor would be the amount of capital the individual was able to own before they would have to contribute to the cost of their care.
Importantly the Joint Committee’s acknowledge that cross-party support is vital to reform. We have too often seen that it can become politically toxic for one party to suggest tax reform to fund social care – we only have to think back to the Conservative Manifesto of 2017 and the furore over the ‘Dementia Tax’. Progress therefore needs to be made across party lines to ensure consensus and long-term stability for what would have to be a long-term program of change.
The system is undoubtedly at a cliff edge. NHS funding has been addressed and we now wait to see what the future holds for social care. In the meantime navigating the health and social care system can be a minefield especially if you are concerned for the wellbeing of a relative with significant care needs. As recognised experts who act for older and vulnerable clients, we can help you to understand the best way forward, and our advice often can save you from making decisions which you may come to regret from both a financial and a service provision perspective.
Please contact us on 0161 9626 1533 for a further conversation to see whether we can offer assistance.