The Prime Minister is right in elevating social care to one of this election’s defining issues – reflecting the very need for radical change that many of us have long been calling for.
Some may have been disappointed the manifesto lacked the long-list of pre-packed bite-sized pledges now expected by 24-hour news and social media. Instead we got a serious programme about serious issues, realistic about the challenges and opportunities that post-Brexit Britain faces not just in the next two years, but over the next twenty years and beyond – including the care of our elderly.
At my first Council meeting last week, I welcomed the pre-election announcement of the additional £2 billion for social care over the next 3 years, which we will use to stabilise and grow Kent’s health and care markets and relieve pressure on hospital beds. Our aim is to bring together the very best of local government and the NHS to achieve better patient care.
All parties now accept the current system of accessing and funding social care support in this country is broken and needs fixing. What is needed is a real, long-term funding solution which is brave, flexible, and fair; and one which takes into account the growing demand for care within our aging population.
Over the next 20 years, Britain’s pensioner numbers will rise by 40% to more than 16 million. The current funding structure to meet these ever-increasing needs is unsustainable in its current form. For “the 25%” on low incomes and benefits, the system supports them well, with entitlement to good, some would say generous state support; but for the majority of individuals, costs for families are catastrophically high. In particular, the “strivers” who have generated modest wealth and the “just about managings” who are unfortunate enough to experience dementia and long term disabling conditions are failed miserably by the state as they see their modest wealth devastated.
Theresa May’s announcement of the protection of personal wealth will go up from £23,000 to £100,000 coupled with a cap on total care costs on any one individual. I hope that the limit will be set somewhere in the region of £100,000 to 125,000 for any one individual. I am optimistic that private sector insurance schemes will then evolve to protect family wealth, with the state paying over and above the cap. By extending the same policy to domiciliary care as residential it provides parity between those being cared for at home and those cared for within residential homes.
It is important too that the burden of our care as we grow older does not rest on the shoulders of the next generations. This policy allows us to find a sustainable way of paying for our care while ensuring that everyone is able to pass on hard-earned wealth to their loved ones.
The policy represents an important first step towards raising the investment required to fund social care and further thinking on additional solutions will undoubtedly emerge – and be tested – as an outcome of the forthcoming Green Paper. For example, through exploring social care insurance models such as the one operating in Germany that works based on universal entitlement, with revenue raised through compulsory contributions from the working-age and pensioner cohorts.
Theresa May’s policy recognises the overwhelming need to find a sustainable funding solution in adult social care; it protects a certain level of wealth for hard working individuals who have contributed throughout their working lives, paying their taxes and accumulating modest wealth, while allowing for the creation of an insurance market for those who choose to distribute the cost over a longer period. It provides local authorities an exciting opportunity to help people sooner and to improve quality of life.
Above all, it provides intergenerational fairness while ensuring that all have quality of care and support, giving older people the dignity they rightly deserve.