Real life cases highlight social care crisis

The impact of the growing cost of social care has been highlighted through the real life stories of retirees.

Covered in a recent radio programme by the BBC, the case studies focussed on the so-called ‘crisis’ unfolding in the social care sector and how the lack of funding is affecting the lives of many in varying ways.

One of the stories told by caller ‘Roy’ centred around his concerns for his sister suffering from dementia and how she would be able to fund the cost of residential care.  Stating that she had used her own resources to fund her care, including the proceeds of sale from her property, he expressed doubt when asked if she could keep up the costs for much longer if her needs change.

“She could live another twenty years. This seems to be the fundamental problem, that nobody will say what happens when the money runs out.”

Although his sister is currently content with the current care she is receiving, there is uncertainty as to whether she will need to move on should she need more specialised care in the future. As her needs require social, rather than nursing care, Roy expressed his concern as to whether the home she is currently in would be able to cope for much longer.

“If the care home she is in now say that they can’t look after her because of her aggression, where is she going to go?”

The cost of residential care and how it is assessed has been a prominent issue over the past few years, with many concerned over how they’ll foot the bill as they enter retirement.

Expressing frustration at the cost of residential care was an anonymous contributor to the programme, highlighting that the current means of financial assessment was unfair. He stated that instead of making sacrifices to afford later life care, as he had done, it would have been more beneficial to spend any savings and allow the council to pay.

At present, the cost of someone’s care is based on a means test which looks at the value of their assets and finances.

If the total is below £14,250, the council will pay for the entirety of the care and if is above £23, 250, the burden shifts to the individual who will need to pay for all of the care.

Any amount in between is assessed on a sliding scale, with both the council and the individual contributing to the cost of care.

Changes to this assessment were scheduled to come into effect during April 2016, but these have now been postponed until 2020.

In the run-up to the general election, the major political parties have also indicated their stances on funding social care in their respective manifestos.

Given the prominence of social care and the pressure it is facing, the policies and proposals are likely to be looked upon with great scrutiny, with voters considering whether one party can succeed where past governments have failed.

Arguing that strategies of previous governments have failed to keep up with the demographic was Richard Humphries from Independent Health research charity the King’s Fund. He stated that although the increasing needs of an ageing population had been acknowledged, in various government whitepapers, for example, the services to support these needs have never been able to keep pace.

He went on to outline the current proposals set out by the three major parties in order to alleviate the increasing cost of social care.

Although both Labour and the Liberal Democrats intend to put more money into the care system, they plan to fund it in different ways. Whilst Labour plan on putting a tax on companies and high earners, the Liberal Democrats want to put a 1p increase on income tax and potentially introduce an additional tax purely to fund health and social care.  He also stated that both parties intend to put a maximum cap on the social care costs over someone’s lifetime. Mr Humphries also highlighted that although the concept of a cap had previously been considered by the Conservatives, it had not appeared in their most recent manifesto. Theresa May has since stated that there will be a consultation in regard to this, and what the absolute cap will be.

The main proposal from the Conservatives is to increase the means test threshold from £23,250 to £100,000, enabling those needing care to keep a larger share of their assets. However, as the proposal is to streamline the care assessment for those needing both residential care and care at home, there are wider implications that have gathered criticism.

Currently, the means test for those who receive care at home does not include the value of their property. The new assessment in the Conservative policy, however, will include property value, meaning that although the threshold has increased, they may still lose equity in their home.

With the general election on the horizon, the social care crisis has risen to the surface when it comes to issues of public significance. Only time will tell how the elected government plan to deal with the ageing population and whether a sustainable solution will be found.

The full radio programme can be listened to here. 

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