Experts call for urgent action to fill care fund vacuum

Consumer education, product innovation and property renovation must be among the priorities to support a more sustainable social care sector, experts have warned.

The comments were made when a panel met to discuss the findings of an Equity Release Council, Pure Retirement and My Care Consultant report on housing wealth and the social care funding crisis.

Damian Green, MP and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on adult social care and longevity, said:

“There is a £7bn funding gap the Government needs to fill to provide social care funding. A National Insurance surcharge for over-50s, topped up with an insurance policy that could involve property wealth, can be part of a long-term solution that is sustainable and fair across generations.”

Panellists also highlighted the importance of tackling issues with the UK’s ageing housing stock as well as the ongoing care staffing crisis.

Jacqueline Berry, My Care Consultant director, said UK housing was among Europe’s oldest with only 7% built post-2000 making home adaptations a necessary use of equity release among the elderly.

“Homecare is becoming an increasingly popular choice and people are more open to using property wealth to pay for this,” she said.

“But the safety, quality and appropriateness of our housing for those in later life with care needs must be considered by local and national governments to ensure homecare is a viable option.”

Mr Green added:

“We need to build more specific supported-living housing as the UK falls far behind on this compared to lots of other developed countries.

“The care staffing crisis is also particularly acute. There simply aren’t enough domiciliary care staff to meet growing demand.”

The experts reiterated calls for a major public education campaign to put care at the forefront of public consciousness, mirroring the success of workplace pension reforms. Independent legal advice was also highlighted as vital in the care process to ensure people are aware of their options and the implications in the future.

Mr Green said:

“One of the quietest and biggest successes of our political system has been the cross-party support of the auto-enrolment pensions policy.

“Millions of people will have a more comfortable retirement as a result, and we urgently need to reflect this in care funding too by normalising saving for care costs very early on in life.”

The panellists also discussed the importance of a regulatory framework that fosters financial product innovation to support people and their families to meet later life care needs.

Paul Carter, CEO of Pure Retirement, said:

“Government, policymakers and providers need to come together so we can have the right funding structures to make more product innovations viable.

“The vision is there and if we collectively work together, we can innovate to provide the solutions that people really need to tackle the issue of social care funding head-on.”

The debate follows a report by the Equity Release Council, supported by Pure Retirement and My Care Consultant.

Entitled Solving the social care funding crisis: perspectives on the contribution of property wealth it uncovered widespread confusion and concern about paying for later life care.

In addition, it highlighted how two in three (67%) over-50s are determined to stay living in their homes if they need care in future and found widespread support for some level of state-funded care.

Speaking after the debate, David Burrowes, chair of the Equity Release Council and the chair of the debate, said:

“The social care sector is a highly complex area and a source of major tension for individuals and families across the generations, compounded by local and national funding challenges.

“Yet almost half of the population are united in feeling that social care should be funded for everyone, up to a certain point, with the option to top this up with your own finances.

“The equity release sector has an important role to play in supporting a sustainable solution and help more people achieve their wishes to be cared for in their own homes.”

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