On Social Care reform

I wrote an article in July 2012 for the Local Government Association responding to the Government’s Social Care White Paper:

The Government’s white paper on social care has been described by the Alzheimer’s Society as “not worth the paper it’s written on”. Its Chief Executive Jeremy Hughes said: “Millions of vulnerable people had been promised radical reform but today they are being massively let down.” The care system for older and more vulnerable people is in crisis. The Government’s own figures show that more than £1 billion has been cut from local council budgets for elderly care since the coalition came to power.

While national minimum care standards are to be welcomed (indeed Labour proposed adopting these at the last election) without sufficient funding these standards will only be the bare minimum. Existing deferred payment schemes for care don’t charge interest but will under new proposals. With no cap on costs, people will lose more of the money tied up in their home. Ros Altmann, Director General of Saga, said of the Government’s proposals: “Without committing to the additional funding, the Government has basically given people the rights to decent care without the money to exercise those rights.

Up and down the country families will still face losing everything if the level of care they require does not qualify for NHS or council help.” Labour wants some of the £1.7 billion NHS underspend spent on tackling this crisis, and a return to cross-party talks on addressing the issue – which will only get worse with demographic changes meaning more and more of us will be needing care in older age. Labour believes free social care at the end of life is achievable and fundable.

Speaking on Radio 2, Polly Toynbee outlined some ideas like changes to National Insurance payments and tax exemptions for some older people that could meet the costs. Care cooperatives might also provide part of the solution. Cooperatives UK has worked together with Manchester Metropolitan University to explore and assess the opportunities for cooperatives and mutuals as service providers under personal budgets in social care and health.

The care system should not be yet another area where the coalition Government’s priorities are focused on the potential profit for private companies operating in the sector, but on ensuring that we all share in ensuring that no-one faces losing everything in later life to pay for care – or receiving care that falls well short of the standards older people deserve.

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