Magazine article Public Finance

Taking Good Care

Magazine article Public Finance

Taking Good Care

Article excerpt

WITH THE NUMBER of older people expected to quadruple by 2030, many of us are concerned about the provision of care for current and future generations of older people, and with good reason. By the government's own admission, the current care costs system is inadequate.

Last year the government said it was looking to sort out a £6bn black hole in care funding; and that was before the recession had begun to bite. Many of us have been wondering whether we will ever reach a satisfactory outcome for older people when money for extra public spending grows ever more scarce.

The publication of Shaping the future of care together, the government's green paper on social care has at least brought the issue of care for older people to the public's attention and encouraged debate.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham is proposing 'radical reform'. He wants to establish a National Care Service. 'We need a system that's fair, simple and affordable for everyone - a system that gives excellent care wherever we live and whatever our needs,' he said at the launch of the green paper earlier this month.

'Everyone will come into contact with the care system at some point - whether it is ourselves or our families and friends. The National Care Service must be shaped by the people who will use it so we want everyone to tell us what they think.' A 'Big Care Debate' will run until mid-November.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation broadly welcomes the long-term vision for the adult social care system set out in the green paper. But we also believe that it is vitally important that immediate changes are made. Evidence shows that older people find the UK care system unclear, unfair and unsustainable and this is something that needs to be addressed right now.

Earlier this year the JRF published a number of costed reforms that could make a big difference very quickly while longterm reform is still being considered. These included:

* equity release: allowing older homeowners to pay for home-based care by deferring the costs until their home is sold

* higher capital limits for care home fees: helping those with modest assets by raising the ceiling for local authority support from £22,250 to £42,500

* doubling the personal expenses allowance to £44: to give more dignity to people in council-supported care homes

* free personal care for all people requiring nursing care: to remove inconsistencies between care funded by the NHS or by the individual.

Although everyone agrees that England needs a new long-term care funding system, it might take a decade to establish it. These reforms could quickly make a difference to older people and their carers struggling to cope under the present system. In addition, these solutions, which draw on evidence and research collected by JRF over a number of years, would help make the current system fairer and more focused on the individual and their particular needs.

A JRF report published last year, Rethinking social care and support, brings together different approaches to funding adult social care in other countries:

* Austria - a cash care allowance funded from general taxation was introduced in 1993. It is paid regardless of age, income or assets. The care allowance is paid at one of seven levels, depending on the amount of help needed, and can be used to pay for care at home or in an institution

* The Netherlands - since the 1960s, the Netherlands has provided universal coverage for long-term care for people of all ages through a non-means-tested social insurance programme. …

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