England ‘lags behind’ other countries with social care

29 Aug 18

England has been “left behind” as other countries get on with modernising their social care systems for an increasingly ageing population, campaigners said today.

The Age UK charity published a report, carried out by health policy and communication specialists Incisive Health, highlighting the differences between the social care in England and in similar societies, specifically France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan.

It found that designing a sustainable social care was a policy challenge everywhere but other countries had made an earlier start.

Germany began to make changes in 1995, while Japan embarked on reforms in 2000.

In England, despite two government consultations, two official commissions, five green or white papers and one Act of Parliament, the system has remained largely unchanged, the report showed.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: “Sadly, this new report shows that England has been left behind in the race to update the funding of care for older people, compared to some other similar nations.

“As a result, our older people and their families are paying more and bearing a lot more of the risk of needing expensive long term care.”

She added that freezes to income thresholds and allowances had made the care offer to older people “even stingier”.

The research also found that there was relatively little risk pooling in England compared to the other countries.

In the English health and social care systems are very different, with total risk pooling in health and none in social care.

However, in the comparator countries studied health and social care systems were more similar. This meant a “better and fairer deal” for people with dementia, Age UK said.

Care provided by family members was found to be roughly equal across all countries studied, contrary to suggestions that other nations are more family-oriented than the English.

Both Age UK and Incisive Health urged the government to make the most of the upcoming green paper on social care.

“It is crucial that the forthcoming social care green paper isn’t yet another failed exercise,” said Abrahams.

“The evidence from other countries is that a package of measures that significantly improve the care offer to older people attracts a lot more public support than something more timid – the public isn’t stupid and will demand good value in return for paying more.”

Mike Birtwistle, founding partner at Incisive Health, added: “The green paper must grasp the nettle of this challenge and propose a realistic and funded plan to address the immediate crisis, as well as delivering longer term reforms to ensure fairness and sustainability…Ducking the issue cannot be an option.”

James Jamieson, vice chair of the Local Government Association, said: “This report helps to stimulate the public debate we are leading on how to provide a long-term solution to funding adult social care to rescue a system in crisis.”

He added that council taxpayers could not bears the costs of solving the crisis on their own.

The LGA is currently consulting on its own proposals for funding social care, and has issued a green paper suggesting the over-40s could pay an additional tax. 

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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