No party offers a real solution for social care crisis, says think-tank

2 Jun 17

The social care pledges of the three main parties all do “little to address the fundamentals of the current social care crisis”, according to a health think-tank.

Analysis from the Centre for Health and the Public Interest (Chpi) examined manifesto plans for social care from the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats found none had a solution for the sector’s problems.

Its briefing stated: “Only by injecting a substantial amount of public funds into the care system will social care become a service which enhances the lives and independence of our older people”.

The study notes that despite a growing and ageing population fewer people are accessing publically funded social care – 400,000 less than five years ago.

This is put down to a 9% real-terms reduction in central government funding to local authorities between 2009/10 and 2014/15, forcing councils to ration care services to only those with acute needs.

The report highlights that social care will need an extra £2.5bn a year in three years just to maintain the existing “highly restricted level of care”.

Currently 0.5% of GDP is spent on public social care in England, while the UK spends 2% on defence and 0.7% on international aid.

Researchers from Chpi called for greater funding to both improve the quality of care and expand the number of people receiving it. They said the system should go beyond one that caters only to those with significant care needs to one which enhances the lives of the elderly and prevents them from falling ill prematurely, which in turn costs the NHS.

The critical report stated that “none of the three main party manifestos gets close to addressing or recognizing this need”.

 

  • Labour have pledged £8bn specifically for social care over the next five years

  • The Lib Dems have pledged £6bn for both NHS and social care

  • The Conservatives haven’t set out any additional government funding beyond an extra £2bn over next three years, which was budgeted in prior to the election being called. However the party’s manifesto set out plans for more pensioners to contribute instead. 

    Under the plans, pensioners with more than £100,000 in savings and assets must pay for their own care. This includes the value of a person’s home, where previously this had been exempt. Individuals can either sell their home to support their care, or they can defer payments until after they die, when the amount will be deducted from their estate.

    While the manifesto outlined no cap on total care costs an elderly person would be liable for, in an apparent u-turn prime minister Theresa May later announced there would be an “absolute” limit but declined to say what that would be

 

According to the Chpi, Labour’s plans would just about cover the £2.5bn shortfall currently facing the sector, whilst scrapping the 15-minute care slots and increasing care workers pay to the national living wage.

Meanwhile, it is unclear how the Lib Dems would use the £6bn figure to meet the existing shortfall.

The report notes that the three main parties have committed to protecting older people from the worry of having to pay for social care in the form of a cap, but none have outlined what level they would set it at.

The Chpi argues that “capping care costs would benefit a relatively small number of people and would have little impact on the quality or the availability of care”.

It was also pointed out that it would cost around £200m a year, according to a 2013 impact assessment, to assess the care needs of 500,000 people who might require assistance. 

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