Consensus on social care? Not yet…

This week we have seen social care everywhere in the news.

Our Chief Exec, Carole Cochrane, attended the much publicised care conference today, called by Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham, and attended by Lib Dem Shadow Health Minister, Norman Lamb, but boycotted by Conservative Shadow Health Minister, Andrew Lansley.

With all the major charities represented, the conference sounds like it was a much more sensible and thoughtful discussion than some of the stand up rows the politicians have been having recently.

Andrew Lansley in front of a poster of David Cameron

The Tories have specifically ruled out a compulsory levy

The view of the majority of those represented at the conference is likely to add further fuel to the flames, however, because there appears to have been a consensus that some kind of universal (read: compulsory) insurance system was the best solution, or perhaps the least worst option would be more accurate.

This won’t go down well with the Conservatives who are favouring an opt-in solution and have specifically ruled out a compulsory levy, particularly one that you pay in inheritance tax after you die (the so-called “death tax”).

Neither option is perfect. People don’t really like compulsory systems – most of us keep our fingers crossed that we’ll never need to give or receive care, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Optional systems give more choice, but are much more expensive to buy into, because the risks are spread across a smaller group.

Our view is that whichever option is chosen (and let’s hope that, whoever wins this argument and the election, we do at least get one of these options in place, however imperfect), most care will continue to be provided by unpaid family carers.

Today’s conference agreed with us that, whichever option is chosen, as well as being able to pay to participate, the unpaid caring that you provide should also count, in lieu of a cash contribution. After all, people who care full time for years simply don’t have the same opportunities to build up income and savings.

It’s time that the political parties stopped focusing all of their energies on criticising each other’s ideas and instead came up with a decent offer to the UK’s six million carers.

Our sources tell us that one of the parties might be going to do just that on Monday…watch this space.

Take care,


Alex Fox, Director of Policy and Communications at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, is standing in for Gordon on his blog this week.

Alex has written an article in Society Guardian this week on the “need for a clear emphasis on unpaid carers”.


February 19, 2010 - Posted by | General Election | , , , , , ,

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