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Social care funding should be better prioritised by the next cabinet, charity warns

Ending the cycle of broken promises to reform social care funding in England must be a priority for the next government, a new report has found.

This morning, Tuesday 23rd January 2024, The Health Foundation, an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and care for people, published their new report which details what the next government must focus on to ensure social care is better supported after the next general election.

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The paper, titled Social Care Funding reform in England, outlines that currently one in seven people aged 65 and over face care costs over £100,000 as the government only covers funding of care for people with the highest needs and lowest means.

In addition, the report, which can be found in full here, notes that staffs pay, working conditions and the reliance on unpaid carers is something that the next political party should immediately work to change.

Zooming in on this, the report suggests three options to protect people against the sky-high costs of care. Experts begin by suggesting a Dilnot-style cap on care costs. The Health Foundation have explained that this option has already been planned for and will be implemented post-election.

Should this approach be adopted, the charity explains it would protect ‘people with the greatest lifetime care needs against catastrophic costs’ by capping funds at £86,000. As people would be able to save money on care costs, The Health Foundation has revealed it will cost the government an estimated £0.5bn extra in 2026/27 and an additional £3.5bn per year by 2035/36.

The second approach the charity have suggested is implanting a Scottish-style model of ‘free personal care’, which is what the Liberal Democrats are currently pledging. Personal care includes a number of basic needs that mostly fall under home care. This outlook could cost around £6bn extra in 2026/27, rising to £7bn by 2035/36.

Lastly, The Health Foundation have suggested ‘introducing an NHS-style model of universal and comprehensive care’. Although this is the least likely option and the most expensive, as it would cost the government around £17bn in additional funding by 2035/36, many in the sector believe this could be of benefit to care recipients.

One of the reasons this report was created was because successive governments have ditched or delayed plans to reform funding for social care. A previous example of this is Tony Blair promised reform in 1997 and a decade ago, the coalition government legislated for a Dilnot-style cap on care costs but this introduction was later delayed to 2025 by Boris Johnson’s government.

Charles Tallack, director of data analytics at The Health Foundation said: ‘Despite the pressing need for change, successive governments have failed to reform the funding of social care, leaving a catalogue of broken promises, delays and abandoned manifesto commitments whilst people continue to suffer under a care cost lottery.’

There are a number of options for reform but legislation already on the Statute Book to introduce a cap on the lifetime costs of care and give more people state support means that a solution is within reach,’ Charles said. ‘There can be no excuse for inaction and prolonging one of the biggest public policy failures of our generation.’ 

Image: Edmond Dantès

More on this topic:

Adult social care reforms: how can councils step up to support those in need?

Government commits to major children’s social care reforms


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