Most of the UK media is covering the announcement made in Parliament by Jeremy Hunt, Secretary State for Health, about proposed changes to social care.
The two confirmed points to have garnered the most media attention in the run-up to the announcement are:
The government expects these changes will lead to fewer people having to sell their homes in order to pay for their long-term care needs.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Hunt said that the current system was ‘desperately unfair’ as many older people face ‘limitless, often ruinous’ costs. The minister stated that he wants the country to be ‘one of the best places in the world to grow old’.
The term social care covers a range of services provided to help vulnerable people improve their quality of life and assist them with their day-to-day living.
People often requiring social care include:
Social care services can include:
Currently, state funding for social care is based on two criteria:
The majority of people currently requiring social care pay for it privately. These are known as ‘self-funders’.
Put simply, on average, the UK population is getting older.
When the welfare state was created in the early 20th century, it was not expected that people would someday routinely live into their 70s, 80s, and even 90s.
The increase in life expectancy is a good thing, however, it brings a new set of challenges.
While people are living longer, they are also spending more of their lives in ill health. Older people are more likely to have potentially complex care needs that can be expensive to manage.
Many people are currently ineligible for state-funded social care under the existing laws. To meet the costs of these care needs, these ‘self-funders’ have, in many cases, had to sell or remortgage their home, or sell other assets to pay for the costs of their care.
Without reforms, experts agree that the cost of social care for both the state (through taxes) and to ‘self-funders’ is likely to become increasingly problematic.
To try and find the best way to resolve some of the difficulties of fairly funding adult social care, the Department of Health set up a commission. This independent commission reported its findings to ministers in July 2011. The government considered these findings in its white paper on care and support published in July 2012, and in the drafting of the proposed new legislation.
The government has introduced a Social Care Bill which will need to be passed by the Houses of Parliament.
If the bill is successfully passed it is expected the amendments will come into force by 2017.