A new report from the Health Foundation and The King’s Fund has highlighted the worrying lack of progress on social care reform in England.
The authors of the report have identified low public awareness and a lack of agreement on what should be done as major barriers to progress on social care reform, despite political consensus on the need for urgent action.
According to the report, reform of the current system would be costly; however, if reform is chosen, England would be at a clear ‘fork in the road’ with a choice between a better means-tested system and one that is more like the NHS – free at the point of use for those who need it.
Changing the current system
As mentioned in the report, the current system sees fewer people receiving publicly funded care annually and will lead to a funding gap of £6bn by 2030/31.
Fundamental reforms would also significantly increase the cost of social care. If free personal care for all older people with needs above the current threshold was introduced, it would cost an extra £14bn.
Protecting people from having to sell their homes by implementing a cap on the lifetime costs of care would require £12bn.
Now, with the population of over 75s set to double, the demand for health and care is projected to increase dramatically over the next 30 years.
Tax or government funded?
In a survey conducted by the National Centre for Social Research’s British Social Attitudes, it was found that there was a substantially low understanding of how social care operates, with 34% of people believing the government pays for it. 41% of people meanwhile said they felt it should be entirely tax-funded.
Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: “We have reached a fork in the road, and reforming social care is now urgent. Despite the obvious challenges, the government’s green paper must build wide consensus on which direction reform should take and lead to real progress and improvement. More and more vulnerable people will suffer if bold action is not taken to sustain this vital public service.”
“Case for change is overwhelming”
Simon Bottery, senior fellow at The King’s Fund, added: “The case for change is overwhelming – patching up the current system would be costly and would not tackle its fundamental flaws.
“As the government prepares its forthcoming green paper, at least two alternatives should be on the table – a better means-tested system and one offering free personal care, which would cost similar amounts to implement. However, there is no silver bullet – the road to reform will be difficult and costly, whichever option is chosen.”
Press release: The King’s Fund