If social care is in crisis, why has it proved so hard for successive governments to deliver sustainable, long-term funding for this crucial service?
The answer lies partly in the public’s perception of social care, which many find confusing, complex and difficult to navigate.
People also struggle to understand how social care funding works. Many people think it is funded similarly to the NHS and are largely unaware – and shocked to discover – that they may have to contribute to the costs of their care depending on the level of their assets. Respondents to one recent survey highlighted the need for an ‘easily accessible’ and ‘simple, clear’ social care system.
The confusion is well illustrated by the examples of cancer and dementia. Develop the former and the NHS will take care of you for free. Develop the latter and you risk losing the majority of your savings because you will have to pay for your care.
People also want more fairness in the system – fairness for older people who have paid taxes all their lives, fairness in protecting people’s homes and fairness between different generations.
Many people would like to see the introduction of an ‘asset floor’ – an amount below which no one would have to contribute to their care costs, as well as a ‘cap’ on the costs of care.
So what are the options for change?
Pay care providers a fair price
If councils had the money to pay a fair price for care, it would help prevent providers of care closing or cancelling contracts.
Cost: By 2024/25 = £1.44 billion
Make sure there is enough money to meet rising demand and cover the cost of inflation
Without new funding, unmet need – people who require care but can’t get it – is likely to continue to grow, pressures will build on care providers, and the strain on unpaid carers will continue to increase.
Cost: By 2024/25 = £2.12 billion
Provide care for everyone that needs it
Ensuring those who need care – including those not currently receiving it – would help maintain people’s independence and prevent their conditions worsening.
Cost: By 2024/25 = £3.6 billion for older people and £1.4 billion for working age adults.
‘Cap and floor’
A cap – or a limit – on the amount of money someone pays for their care, after which it would be paid for by the state – and a ‘floor’, which would protect a minimum amount of a person’s assets, for example, £100,000.
Cost: By 2024/25 = £4.7 billion (based on a cap at £75,000 and a floor at £100,000 )
Free personal care
Free personal care – help with daily tasks like bathing and dressing – would remove the need for means testing and help people to remain independent at home.
Cost: By 2024/25 = £6 billion