None of us know if we will need care in the future, or how much it might cost. But we do know that 1 in 4 of us will face care costs of more than £50,000. What’s more, 1 in 10 will be unlucky enough to face care costs of more than £100,000 in our older age. This is social care’s nasty little secret.
Right now, local councils decide how to spend money on care and support. As a result, there can be big differences between care and support in different areas. Access to support can vary depending on where you live, irrespective of whether or not you have the same care need as someone else. All of this means we have a system that leaves people utterly confused about what help they will receive.
But social care doesn’t just matter because of the costs. It matters because it goes to the very heart of our society where families are the bedrock of care. I don’t believe it’s the business of Government to force people to care for their loved ones. But it is the business of Government to help them if they do so. That’s been our focus in Government over the past twelve months.
First, the Spending Review secured an extra £2bn for social care by 2014. A total of £7.2 billion extra support for social care over the next four years including an unprecedented transfer of funds from the NHS to social care. Through this, Government are finally recognising through funding that health and social care are two sides of the same coin.
The second is being clear as a Government about what social care can achieve. Last November, I set out the Government’s vision for social care which outlined our commitment to provide greater control to individuals and their carers by extending the roll out of personal budgets to give individuals the freedom to decide what their money is spent on. That vision also delivered on our manifesto commitment to provide guaranteed respite care by making over £400million available in additional funding over the next four years to the hundreds of thousands of carers who work over 50 hours a week. And of course there is funding.
Last July we set Andrew Dilnot and his fellow commissioners the challenge of answering the question: ‘how do we strike a fair balance between individual’s responsibility and the State in funding care and support?’ One year later and we are very shortly about to receive his answer. Andrew Dilnot and his fellow commissioners have been blunt that reform comes with a price tag.
There is no magic solution that can shield people from catastrophic costs, instantly reward thrift and make a rotten system fair. This week a survey conducted by the housing and care charity Anchor of 2,000 adults across Britain, found that 44% believed the government “should cover all social care costs for older people”. It’s easy to forget that without personal experience many people won’t know the kind of catastrophic costs that can be racked up through social care. But many people also won’t know that social care isn’t free. Never has been, and never will be. So when you hear all three parties saying that the ship has sailed on a wholly tax funded social care, the truth is that the ship never really even left the dock.
We must therefore make sure that people don’t look at the Dilnot plan through rose tinted glasses by comparing his plans with the fantasy of free care. If funding reform is to be secured during this Parliament it will require give and take. But it will also demand recognition of the times we are in and the fact that the deficit we inherited from Labour casts a long shadow. So although funding reform may be essential; it is not sufficient in itself. The questions that the Government put to Andrew Dilnot are just some of the questions that need an answer. The events at Southern Cross pose questions about the market in care, the abuse scandal at Winterbourne View raises questions about safety, and the Law Commission has posed questions about the social care law.
Don’t expect next week to hear the Government’s final word on social care. The Dilnot report will mark an important milestone on the road to reform, but there are other questions and more milestones to come. There will inevitably be challenges on the way, but I firmly believe that by working together, we can finally begin the process of turning the page on social care reform.