Health

For too long we have shied away from fixing social care – Damian Green

By - Integrated Care Journal

For too long we have shied away from fixing social care - Damian Green

For nearly a quarter of a century successive governments have shied away from a comprehensive solution to the problem of how to fund social care. Given that the current government looking to finalise its own proposals for the future of the sector, this report from Public Policy Projects is both valuable and timely. The reccomendations within this document not only offer practical solutions to the serious challenges in social care, but put forward a new proposition for the sector.

The devastating effects of the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic in care homes brought home to the wider public the urgent need for reform. Vulnerable elderly people were caught up in a fragile support system that failed to protect them. The country needs a ‘1948 moment’ equivalent to the foundation of the NHS: a radical shift which will certainly involve more money - but it needs to go much further than that.

As well as increased funding, the report stresses that social care must be better integrated with the wider healthcare ecosystem, linked together with a new digital thread of technology, as well as an improved infrastructure that will serve to give people more comfort and dignity in later life. These issues overlap in a number of ways, but if the government wants to find a comprehensive solution it will need to address each and every challenge.

Inevitably, most attention focuses on the funding mechanism needed to address the long-standing problem: that we simply do not put enough money into the sector. The best estimate of the current gap in funding for elderly social care is £7 billion and rising. The innovative solution in this report is a variant on the Dilnot solution of a cap on total individual liability. The report proposes a Personal Asset Protection Guarantee, which means that an individual becomes eligible for support once a certain percentage of their assets have been spent. Given that for most people their assets are overwhelmingly their family home, this means the proposals are fair for all parts of the country, despite the massive disparities in house prices between different areas.

Of course, funding is only one part of the solution. The report covers a wider range of contentious issues, including the proper structure for the new integrated care systems, the future of digital care records, and the need for a new planning class for retirement living developments. These attract fewer headlines than the conundrum of how to pay for social care, but they are just as important in developing a sustainable solution.

This is a crucial time for the millions of people who rely on social care in this country. By the end of this year we will know how the government proposes to transform the system. The recommendations in this report provide a well-researched basis for ministers to follow, and I hope they adopt many of the ideas which PPP is putting forward.

For more information on PPP's report: The future of social care: Turning rhetoric into reality, please write to carl.hodgkinson@publicpolicyprojects.com.


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