A £46,000 cap on social care costs and an immediate £7billion injection of cash are needed to address a funding crisis, say MPs.
They endorse an upper limit on what individuals should pay towards care, to protect people against ‘catastrophic’ costs, at the same level suggested in the influential, government-backed Dilnot report in 2011.
The current means-tested system is unfair, confusing, demeaning and ‘frightening for the most vulnerable people in our society, and their families’, according to the health and social care committee.
Reforms on hold: The Government has delayed announcing social care reform plans promised in the Conservative election manifesto,
The £7billion is necessary to avoid the risk of market collapse, but is only a starting point and would not solve a growing problem of people whose care needs are not being met or improve access to care, says the ‘Social Care: Funding and Workforce’ report.
The social care system is under close scrutiny after many care home residents died during the coronavirus pandemic, and the tragedy could deter many elderly people from using them in future.
Meanwhile, the Government has delayed announcing social care reform plans promised in the Conservative election manifesto, which offered a ‘guarantee’ that no one needing care will have to sell their home to pay for it.
More than 17,000 pensioners were forced to sell homes to pay for social care last year, research by Money Mail recently revealed.
How is care paid for at present?
Under the current system someone’s assets – including the family home – is depleted down to £23,250 if they need to go into a care home.
If you need care in your own home, your assets must be depleted to a level set by your local council, which cannot be lower than £23,250, but your home is excluded from this means test.
The MPs’ report also called for:
– Further consideration of the introduction of free personal care
– Action to improve the pay and recognition given to social care workers
– Transitional arrangements to ensure recruitment of social care workers from overseas for as long as necessary
– A 10-year plan for social care, like the one for the NHS.
The committee says a £46,000 cap on people’s social care costs cap would cost around £3.1billion by 2023–24.
‘Such a change would focuses resources on the most severely affected people, protecting those with very high care needs–and remove the injustice which sees the NHS cover certain types of extreme care costs but the social care system not cover others, including those with dementia, motor neurone disease or many other neurological conditions,’ its report says.
The committee chairman and former Tory Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP, who writes more about its proposals here, says: ‘The pandemic has held up in lights the brilliant and brave work done by the social care workforce – but the real thank you they want is not a weekly clap but a long term plan for the crisis in their sector.’
‘In this report we look at one element of that, namely the funding pressures, and conclude that the government must use the spending review to raise the annual adult social care budget by £7billion by the end of the parliament as the starting point for a wider series of reforms,’ he adds.
‘Whilst that is a significant sum, it would not increase access or quality of care.
‘However it would meet demographic and wage pressures as well as meet the catastrophic care costs faced by people with dementia or other neurological conditions.
‘To address wider issues the sector needs a 10-year plan and a people plan just like the NHS. Without such a plan, words about parity of esteem will be hollow. We owe it to both the staff and families devastated by loss to make this a moment of real change.’
The Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson says: ‘We recognise the challenges facing social care and we are doing everything we can to support the sector during the pandemic including through regular testing of staff and residents, free PPE and over £1.1 billion through the Infection Control Fund.
‘We remain absolutely committed to ensuring everybody is treated with dignity and nobody has to sell their home to pay for care.
‘We know there is a need for a long-term solution for social care and are looking at a range of proposals as part of our commitment to bringing forward a plan that puts the sector on a sustainable footing for the future.’
The DHSC added that the Government’s current priority for adult social care is for everyone who relies on care to get the care they need throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the winter period, placing equal focus on the NHS and care sectors.
It recently published an Adult Social Care Winter Plan, but says it is acutely aware of the long-term challenges to the system.
Stephen Lowe of Just Group, which publishes an annual report on social care, says: ‘Putting an overall limit on the costs that an individual may have to pay for care before the State steps is an idea that people appear to understand and believe is fair.
‘Research for our annual 2020 Care Report found 58 per cent of adults aged 45-plus supported the idea of a cap on care costs, while it was higher at 65 per cent among those aged 75-plus.
‘We have been asking this question since the idea of the cap was proposed in 2011 and it has always been more popular than the idea the state should pick up the whole bill.;
But Lowe adds: ‘If people are expected to pay up to the level of the cap, they need to be clear exactly what spending is included.
‘In that original proposal, spending on so-called “hotel costs” – accommodation and food in a care home, for example – would not be included in the assessment of spending towards the cap.’