A report by The Health Foundation and The King’s Fund has highlighted a “worrying’ lack of progress on social care reform.
The research reveals low public awareness and a lack of consensus on what should be done as major barriers to progress.
Anita Charlesworth, Director of Research and Economics at the Health Foundation, said: “We have reached a fork in the road and reforming social care is now urgent. Despite the obvious challenges, the government’s green paper must build wide consensus on which direction reform should take, and lead to real progress and improvement. More and more vulnerable people will suffer if bold action is not taken to sustain this vital public service.”
The report finds that the current system, which sees fewer people receiving publicly-funded care every year, will lead to a funding gap of £6bn by 2030/31. Returning to levels of access and quality last seen in 2009/10, before the current period of austerity, would increase the gap to £15bn.
More fundamental reforms would also significantly increase the cost of social care with introducing free personal care for all older people with needs above the current threshold costing an extra £14bn. Protecting people from having to sell their homes by implementing a cap on the lifetime costs of care would require £12bn. Meanwhile, with the population over 75 set to double, demand for health and care is projected to rise dramatically over the next 30 years.
Public perceptions findings from the British Social Attitudes survey revealed extremely low understanding of how social care operates, with 34% believing the government pays. When asked who should fund social care, 41% felt it should be entirely tax-funded. At present only those with assets below £23,250 qualify for any publicly funded care.
With taxation the most likely option for boosting social care funding, the findings of separate deliberative work carried out by Ipsos Mori show most people would prefer a dedicated tax to stop the money being diverted elsewhere. Options that include the possibility of people selling their homes to cover care costs, as exists now, were found to be deeply unpopular.