Government under increasing pressure to fund social care

This blog is a week late – but I’ve been busy! I wanted to highlight the Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee report published July 4th. This cross-party group of Peers calls for an immediate investment of £8 billion pounds into our care services “to restore social care to acceptable standards”.

North Devon, as many areas of the country, has an ageing population. Many move here to retire, and then as they enter their twilight years increasingly rely on stretched care services. I have been meeting with care providers and care users – there is a lot that needs improving in North Devon and it comes down to funding. £8 billion more for our care services nationally would make a real difference in North Devon.

In England, over a million vulnerable older people do not have proper care support. However, in Scotland, where health and social services are a devolved matter, care is free for the over 65s.

Many family and friends in England have caring responsibilities as their loved one does not meet the criteria for social care. This is wrong. The report highlights that most unpaid carers are women. 63% of women who care are aged between 50-64 and care for at least 50 hours a week. Our society is being propped up by the unpaid work of millions of carers.

I welcome another recommendation of the report, notably that a further £7 billion a year should be spent to extend free personal care to all by 2025. This would include help with cooking, washing and dressing. We need an integrated health and care system, with care paid for out of taxes. Any of us could need care at any time – this should not be a lottery where some get good care and others not.

Key findings are here, and include that the lack of funding means “local authorities are paying care providers a far lower rate for local authority-funded care recipients than self-funded care recipients, and those care providers with a high proportion of local authority-funded care recipients are struggling to survive.” North Devon in a nutshell.

The report highlights the disparity in care across England, saying that additional funding “should be distributed to local authorities according to a fair funding formula.”

One of the recommendations is that the Government should explore a cap on accommodation costs, as accommodation costs are excluded from the personal care proposals. The Dilnot Report, published in 2011, had proposed capping care costs but was never adopted. The idea of capping costs has been around for a little while, and in this Lords’ Report capping would apply to accommodation costs because other care costs would be funded from general taxation.

I hope these recommendations are implemented, but I lack faith that they will be in the current climate. We need real vision to create a society where all are valued – carers and those cared for. This report outlines how that could be achieved.

* Kirsten Johnson is the PPC for North Devon and Day Editor of Lib Dem Voice.