Experts urge social care reform

8 Jun 09
The public is widely ignorant about social care services and is unprepared for old age, a study has shown

By David Williams

05 June 2009

The public is widely ignorant about social care services and is unprepared for old age, a study has shown.

The research, published on May 27 by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Institute for Public Policy Research, comes ahead of a government green paper on social care, due this month.

Expectations and aspirations: public attitudes towards social care found that less than half of those surveyed were aware that care services were means tested, and only 22% were taking steps to fund their own care.

It also showed that most people believed care should be free to all and based on need rather than means-tested.

The IPPR and PwC recommended that the government set up a panel to encourage a debate on social care and ensure the public becomes better informed about the services available.

Andrew Harrop, head of public policy at Age Concern, said radical action was needed. ‘The key issue is timing. My concern is that any further process identifying what’s wrong with the current system would just delay reform,’ he said.

‘The government now needs to be bold, set out some solutions and then have a public debate about answers rather than an ongoing debate about why the current system doesn’t work.’

Caroline Bernard, policy and communications manager at lobby group Counsel and Care, said the public was right to want free universal social care based on need.

She said: ‘The government needs to look at the priorities across the board and decide what’s important. The NHS is making lots of surpluses, every year, and we’d like to see some of that surplus going into social care.’

But while Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb agreed the system was failing many and needed reform, he would not advocate free care.

Calling for a cross-party agreement modelled on the review of pensions led by Lord Turner in 2004, Lamb also expressed doubts that a government panel would be effective. He said: ‘It sounds horribly remote from ordinary people. The long grass is the one place this cannot be.’

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