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England the ‘poor man’ of developed world on social care funding, warns charity

England the ‘poor man’ of developed world on social care funding, warns charity
3 min read

England’s system of adult social care funding has left the country lagging behind the rest of the developed world, a major charity has warned.

Age UK says that while no nation has “completely overcome” the challenges of looking after rapidly-aging populations, most others have “grasped the nettle” by making significant reforms.

In a scathing report comparing other countries’ approaches, the group says Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Japan all have “more progressive” systems, while England’s “harsh means test has become increasingly less generous”.

It found that a near decade-long freeze in the thresholds for means-testing social care support has amounted to a 9% stealth cut.

Meanwhile, the charity warns that pressures on councils’ budgets mean the average cost of care per person per year has jumped by more than £500 since 2011, while the Personal Expenses Allowance in a care home has gone up by a “miserly” £2.60.

They add that compared with other areas of healthcare funded by the NHS, the social care system in England gives “very limited coverage”, with the burden falling much more on the individual.

Other countries in the study get a “much better and fairer deal” on treatment for dementia, for example.

The charity calls on the Government to come up with “exciting proposals”, given that already “an entire generation of older people in England has lost out” compared with Germany, which began reforms in the mid-1990s, while Japan followed in 2000.

The report points that “over the same period, despite two Government consultations, two official Commissions, five Green or White Papers and one Act of Parliament, England’s system of means tested care funding is broadly unchanged”.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said the findings showed England has been “left behind in the race” to update its funding system, and that the Government’s offer has become “even stingier” amid freezes to thresholds and allowances.

“As a result, our older people and their families are paying more and bearing a lot more of the risk of needing expensive long term care…” she said.

“It is crucial that the forthcoming Social Care Green Paper isn’t yet another failed exercise.

“The evidence from other countries is that a package of measures that significantly improve the care offer to older people attracts a lot more public support than something more timid – the public isn’t stupid and will demand good value in return for paying more.

Elsewhere the report found that roughly similar levels of family caring exist in Britain as in other European countries, while no country included in the study has yet  succeeded in fully integrating health and care.


Labour seized on the study to slam the Government's record on social care.

Shadow social care minister Barbara Keeley said: “Reforming social care has never been more urgent, yet the Tories shamefully continue to kick the can down the road with an unnecessary Green Paper on social care.

“By cutting the budgets to local authorities who deliver care and abandoning the social care cost cap, the Tories have made tens of thousands of vulnerable people to unexpectedly pay high costs for social care.

“This has forced people to give up their life savings and even their home to fund their care.”

A spokesperson from the Department for Health and Social Care said: “We have provided local authorities access to £9.4 billion in dedicated social care funding over the last three years.

“Our green paper due in the autumn will set out our plans to reform the social care system to ensure it’s sustainable for the future.”

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