Social Care Funding – Where Are We Now?
On 1 February 2023 we launched our new campaign – Social Care Funding Matters. This is to raise awareness about the current problems with social care funding and to offer practical help to individuals interested in planning ahead and paying for care and to professionals who advise about social care funding.
Over 800,000 people in England alone are reliant on long-term support from social services, half of whom are working age adults. Although the matter of planning and paying for care is frequently covered in the press, much of the information provided is either inaccurate or does not truly reflect the intricacies of the social care funding system.
The ongoing debates around the funding of social care have been in the press for many years. At the time of the 2010 election, Gordon Brown proposed the imposition of a levy on estates after death to fund long-term personal care for the elderly. His proposal was met with fury by the then Conservative opposition, the Daily Mail and the Telegraph, dubbing it a “death tax” which would penalise the middle class.
After the election, the coalition government set up the independent Dilnot Commission, which in 2011 recommended a lifetime care fee cap of £35,000 and significant changes to means-testing rules. The 2015 Conservative manifesto adopted some of the Dilnot recommendations, but proposed a higher care fee cap of £72,000.
The 2015 election coincided with the introduction of the Care Act 2014, which became law in April 2015. The Act changed almost every aspect of the provision of care and support to people with eligible needs. Key to this was the introduction of a national minimum eligibility criteria which set a national level of care and support needs which Social Services across England had to meet. Two months after the election, the Government abandoned its care cap pledge.
A new care cap of £86,000 was announced in Parliament in September 2021, under the Johnson Government. Due to the fall-out from Liz Truss’s ill-fated mini-budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt has now pushed the implementation date of the proposed cap into 2025, after the next election.
Our concern about the emphasis on the care cap is that it obscures the fact that many hundreds of thousands of adults are not receiving the social care funding and support that they are legally entitled to. Over 500,000 adults are on waiting lists for care assessments, care packages, personal budgets or reviews and there are 2.6 million adults aged 50 or over in England who are living with an unmet need for care and support.
Although the Care Act established clear duties on Social Services, we still frequently deal with cases Social Services’ decision is based upon what the local authority believes it can afford to do, rather than based upon their legal duty to meet the vulnerable adult’s needs with an adequate package of care and support.
As a campaigning law firm, we are committed to access to justice. Consequently, throughout February we are offering free advice through our Planning and Paying for Care advice line.
We urgently need a system that brings clarity to a complex area of law, a system that is adequately resourced by central government funding, with clear and relevant information to those who need it most. It is not helpful that the government’s response concentrates on the size of the care cap, which invariably benefits the most affluent in our society. It is crucial that the way a new social care system is funded is fairer for everyone who relies upon it.