Making the case for free personal care - Independent Age
Independent Age is urging the government to introduce a social care contribution aligned to a commitment to provide free personal care, in order to help improve social care for older people, now and in the future.
If current trends continue, support to vulnerable older people will continue to decline, access to social care will predominantly become a service based on ability to pay, and many older people will be left to fend for themselves and forced into crisis. Not only are older people increasingly being let down by a social care system that doesn’t work for them, but such pressures are increasingly leading to demands on already stretched Accident and Emergency services and the wider NHS.
Urgent action is needed now to stop any further decline in social care and support. The forthcoming social care green paper, the Budget, local government settlement, and Spending Review, all present clear opportunities, individually or collectively, to do this.
As part of this debate, Independent Age commissioned Grant Thornton UK LLP and the Social Market Foundation to assess the effectiveness of nine social care funding policy options available to the government to pay for social care in the future. Each policy option was assessed against the costs of: (1) maintaining current levels of support (2) government preferred cap and floor reforms (3) introducing free personal care.
The results of these policy options are detailed in Independent Age’s report “A Taxing Question: How to pay for free personal care”, which identifies how much money each funding option would generate and how much is needed to pay for free personal care in England. The ground-breaking report also detail the financial impact on people and regions in England of each option.
The evidence shows that there are a variety of options that will yield significant income to help fund social care reform, but no one funding option fully addresses the funding gap. Unless there are significant changes to personal taxation, even “high income” funding options will, by 2030/31, leave a funding gap of around £5 billion.
This presents a challenge for policymakers which can be addressed in a number of ways. Increasing the level of tax-take on any new funding option to ensure that sufficient funding is raised to address the need for social care reforms would be one such option. Other ways to address this include accepting there will be a need for two tax rises between now and 2030/31 to address the funding gap and realigning public spending to deliver wholesale transformation of the public health and prevention.
There is overwhelming public support for free personal care. According to the YouGov poll of more than 2000 English working-age adults (from a GB-wide sample), almost three-quarters (74%) of adults in England support free personal care for everyone who needs it, with more than two-thirds of adults in England (69%) agreeing that they would be willing to pay more tax to provide free personal care for all, either through a small increase in Income Tax (27%), a small increase in National Insurance (25%), a new small tax for people aged between 40 and retirement age (11%) or paying a lump sum on retirement (6%). This support is consistent across political leanings, gender, age and region.
There is also widespread political support for further investment in social care funding, with a recent survey showing that more than 4 in 5 MPs now support additional funding to prevent any further decline in social care and support.
However, if people are to pay more to fund social care, then it must be clear that they are not just being asked to fund a system that in many cases is not meeting their needs or expectations in terms of availability and quality. They must be reassured they are in fact funding a much-improved system that addresses previous failings. Introducing free personal care will result in significant benefits for all older people, enabling them to live in their own homes for longer and supporting them to live independent lives for as long as possible.
Independent Age is urging the government to introduce a social care contribution aligned to a commitment to provide free personal care, in order to help improve social care for older people, now and in the future. This will not only make it easier for people to navigate the system, but will also reduce NHS spending, make transfers of care from hospital faster, and will allow more people to live at home independently for longer.
The full report “A taxing question: how to pay for free personal care” can be read here