Reform needed in “confusing” social care system

 The ninth edition of the Just Group Care Report titled Social Care – The Policy Vacuum reveals that although people are interested in the debate about social care they don’t actually know how the system works and are confused by government announcements on the subject.

The report comes following an announcement in the Queen’s Speech which highlighted the Government’s plans for reforms stating that, “proposals on social care reform will be brought forward” and widespread calls to end delays to reforms.

But, says Stephen Lowe, Group Communications Director of Just Group,

“it isn’t the first time that a promise has been made and over the years there has been far more talk than action”.

Indeed the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said in 2019,

“I am announcing now – on the steps of Downing Street – that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve”.

Nevertheless, Lowe has responded,

“our research shows that the inability to act has consequences in the minds of the public”.

The report which is the latest in a research series that aims to shed light on how the over-45s think and feel about adult social care, found that over a third believe that overall care costs are now capped at £72,000, despite the fact that legislation was never actually implemented because it was “not the right moment to be implementing expensive new commitments” according to the Government. Four-fifths of those polled also believe that you can be forced to sell your home to pay for care.

In England, the council will meet the full cost of care for those with savings and assets of less than £14,250, while those with more than £23,250 are expected to meet their own costs in full. For those falling between the two thresholds the costs are split. Alarmingly the report found that 44% did not know there was a set limit above which they would have to use their own money to pay for care.

When it comes to paying for care, a contribution is expected from most sources of income but the value of a house is usually disregarded in financial assessments, such as when care is being received at home, or if it is the home of a spouse or dependent.  Despite this, the report found that half of over 45s thought it fair to use some of the money derived from the sale of a property to pay for care costs and that most people agreed that the State should only act as a safety net for those who cannot pay for themselves. Given these findings, the report questions why politicians are so staunch about protecting the value tied up in the homes of the elderly?

Findings in the report also call for the Government to use the resources that we do have in a more effective and transparent way. In 2017 competition watchdogs pointed out that self-funders were paying £12,000 a year more on average than local authorities paid for residents in the same care home, raising concerns about hidden subsidies.

Additionally, very few people – including those already in later life – make plans for their own care in the future and it is unusual for people to talk to family about their wishes should they need care.  “Almost nobody has made specific financial plans to pay for care”, says Lowe. This lack of knowledge amongst over 45s about how the care system and funding works means that when the time comes to organise care the learning curve is a very steep one, coupled with hastily made decisions.

The report also found that public confidence in the Government to produce and implement a social care policy plan is now half of what it was in 2019. It is thought that the pandemic, Brexit and austerity are all partly to blame for the drop in poll levels.

The full report can be viewed here.

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