Government has come under fire for not providing enough detail about exactly how it plans to reform social care and its latest proposals have been branded “disappointing”.
The subject of social care has been regularly ignored or kicked into the long grass since the Dilnot Commission published its recommendations 10 years ago, and industry spokespeople fear the latest round will do little to improve the situation.
Background briefing documents to today’s Queen Speech reveal the government’s new Health and Care Bill contains a commitment to improving the adult social care system and to bring forward proposals in 2021, Health & Protection understands.
The Bill also includes provisions to improve the oversight of how social care is commissioned and delivered, and facilitate greater integration between health and care services by placing integrated care systems on a statutory footing across the UK.
This would potentially put more power and autonomy in the hands of local systems.
The government said provisions within the legislation will also enable it to get much better data and evidence about the care that is delivered locally.
And there is a commitment to listen and engage with staff groups about how to best support them and more widely to work with local and national partners to ensure the government’s approach to reform is informed by diverse perspectives, including those with lived experience of the care sector.
Ongoing inconsistency and unfairness
But Peter Hamilton, head of market engagement at insurer Zurich, was not convinced, saying the measures lacked detail and overall were “disappointing”.
“The lack of detail on social care reform may not be entirely surprising, given so many false starts, but it is disappointing,” he said.
“The ongoing challenges in care homes caused by the pandemic simply reinforced the urgent need for change and for addressing the inadequacies and inconsistencies in the current system.
“Commitment is needed to introduce measures that will ensure clarity for people around the level of support they can expect to receive from the state, as well as what they will be expected to contribute themselves.
“And of course with that comes the need for serious additional funding. Without this, we will continue to see inconsistency and unfairness as people grapple with a complex system, unable to make any sort of financial provision or plan for their own futures or those of loved ones.”
Paying the price
Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, echoed Hamilton’s sentiments, adding the dearth of detail on adult social care in the Queen’s Speech was as “unsurprising as it is disappointing”.
“Instead we got a promise to bring ‘proposals’ forward. We’re now very nearly a decade on from the Dilnot Commission, which at the time recommended urgent reform,” she said.
“At this stage, we couldn’t really have expected much more. The government has been a bit preoccupied with other things since it pledged reform in 2019, and it will need solid cross-party consensus to be effective, which it couldn’t rustle up before the speech.
“However, we’ve been here before. The millions of people who need care, and the millions providing it, cannot afford for this particular can to end up being kicked down the road again.”
Coles added that delays in reform have caused enormous heartache for people who’ve faced catastrophic care bills in the intervening years.
“And it’s not just the costs to those who need care. Without a holistic solution to the care crisis, there’s also an army of informal carers paying the price,” she continued.
“According to the ONS, in 2011, 5.8 million people provided unpaid care in England and Wales. Unpaid carers are more likely to work part time than full time, and a significant minority have to give up work. It means sacrificing income during their working lives, and having less opportunity to build a pension for retirement.
“So while we can hope that a solution to the care crisis may be on the horizon, we all need to consider how we would pay for care for our loved ones in case they need it soon”
She noted that having these conversations well in advance “can save an awful lot of heartache at a crisis point when someone needs care” and that it was vital to draw up a Lasting Power of Attorney.