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Social Care Reform: Where Are We Now?

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Back in January, we highlighted the additional support care homes and social care services received from the Government to help secure the safety of care home residents during the pandemic, and to help local authorities cope with the influx of new care requests.

As the pandemic thankfully continues to recede, and we take stock of the damage done to sector, the focus has increasingly turned to social care reform. But what is meant by social care reform, and why is it so important?

As the pandemic so devastatingly revealed, social care in the UK is a creaking, complex network of interconnecting, yet siloed, systems. Finding appropriate social care is so complex and difficult that, prior to using CareCompare, one of our users described searching for care akin to “having a second, full-time job”. This complexity, which includes how social care is funded, is putting strain not only on those who search for care, but also those who work within the system itself.

With a rapidly ageing population that will mean over a fifth of the country being over 65 by the end of this decade, something must be done now to prevent a complete collapse of social care services.

While social care reform has been talked about for decades by successive governments, very little has actually changed. Although other complex questions must be answered, the difficulty lies mostly in how social care will be paid for. The question of how social care will be funded is not only a difficult economic question, but a very difficult political question, with governments past and present unwilling to introduce new taxes or charges to support increased social care spending.

While recent conversations between the Prime Minister, Chancellor and Health Secretary have stalled, there are in fact plans already set out in statute that could be implemented immediately. Ten years ago, Sir Andrew Dilnot carried out an independent review of social care funding and support. He made a series of recommendations, helpfully summarized in this BBC article, with the main recommendations being that any fees related to direct care services paid by individuals across their lifetime should be capped at £35,000 (which would be means-tested) and that if a person moves to another local authority, their records should move with them, rather than having to be reassessed.

Legislation was then produced, and passed, to enact these recommendations, so it should simply be a question of when, not if, these reforms will be set in motion. However, while the framework is there, the Government still has options to alter some of the key recommendations. For example, the £35,000 cap is only a recommendation: the Government may choose to increase that amount to save money, keeping the Treasury and Department of Health & Social Care happy. Alternatively, they may wish to keep it at that level (or below) to appease the over 65 voting public, a bloc that we know will be growing rapidly this decade.

With talks on social care reform postponed until the autumn, we will continue to keep an eye on developments and see if a solution can be found to one of this countries biggest issues. In the meantime, if you need help finding care in the Essex region, click the button below to use CareCompare today!

Please note that the views expressed here are those of the author alone and not necessarily those of any other person or organisation.

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