Comment

A storm is coming: are we prepared?

The current model of social care is unsustainable and the public must be involved in the development of a new one 
Skeletons_Blackpool

The recent Kings Fund and Nuffield Trust report on the state of social care for older people in England makes for depressing reading. Not simply because of the picture it paints, but because it adds to a mountain of similar reports highlighting problems in the sector.

In the past 15 years, these problems have been identified in more than 20 detailed and well-respected investigations into social care, but few of these have offered real solutions.

Successive governments have also failed to act. The most recent examples of this are the decision to delay the introduction of a cap on care costs until 2020 and the limited effect of the 2% council tax precept, which raised less than one quarter of what the government had predicted. When it comes to social care policy,

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The recent King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust report on the state of social care for older people in England makes for depressing reading. Not simply because of the picture it paints, but because it adds to a mountain of similar reports highlighting problems in the sector.

Skeletons_Blackpool
Activists at this year’s National Pensioners Convention in Blackpool. Picture: Ann Brolan 

In the past 15 years, these problems have been identified in more than 20 detailed and well-respected investigations into social care, but few of these have offered real solutions.

Successive governments have also failed to act. The most recent examples of this are the decision to delay the introduction of a cap on care costs until 2020 and the limited effect of the 2% council tax precept, which raised less than one quarter of what the government had predicted. When it comes to social care policy, ministers have tinkered at the edges or have simply decided the issue is too big to tackle and kicked it into the long grass.

Urgent action

After years of accumulated failure, the situation has become so grave that urgent action is needed. In recent evidence to the Communities and Local Government Committee, the National Pensioners Convention said that social care faces a ‘perfect storm’ involving:

  • Severe cuts to funding of a service already regarded as the Cinderella of the care system: underfunded and overlooked.
  • Growth in demand accompanied by tighter rationing of services and a reduction in the number of people receiving support.
  • Self-funders continuing to pay more for their care and effectively subsidising local authorities.
  • The decline of support and preventative services in the community, leading to acceleration in rates of illness and greater strain on the NHS.
  • An unsustainable funding model for many private care providers.
  • Increases in the cost of care, in part because of the need to pay staff the national living wage.

These problems are well known, but what about their solutions? It is clear we need a model of social care that improves standards and access to services while sharing cost across society. We need a national health and social care service funded through taxation.

National insurance

The general public, people involved in the care sector, and older people and their families are way ahead of politicians on this issue. They know the current system does not work and that more of the same will solve nothing.

A recent survey of public attitudes reveals that more than half of the population agree that social care services should either be funded from taxation and free at the point of delivery or that there should be a limit to the amounts individuals must pay towards their social care. Former health minister Dan Poulter has even suggested that much-needed funding could be raised through a national insurance system.

Change will not happen overnight, but a sector driven largely by private companies that pay low wages and have questionable financial structures is no answer.

The public must be engaged in debate about how they want their loved ones and themselves to be cared for in the future. This is the only way to protect ourselves before the storm arrives.

About the author

Dot_Gibson

Dot Gibson is general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention

 

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