The devil is in the detail, which is why political parties often avoid it. But in the last week we have seen two detailed polices from Labour and Conservatives on social care.
First came Brown’s promise that to “those with the highest needs we will now offer in their own homes free personal care” (England only). In detailed terms, this would mean that those assessed at the highest level, critical, would not have to pay for any care received in their home. Care in residential homes goes unmentioned. Reports have suggested that up to 350,000 people may benefit from this although it can be assumed that a large number of those with the most critical needs already receive free care.
Interestingly, this policy doesn’t quite fit in with any of the proposals in the Green Paper.
The Conservatives retaliated with their own proposal: 65 year olds can pay a one-off £8000 which will “guarantee that absolutely all fees for permanent residential care would be waived – for life.” (Conservative website). However, there is no mention of covering costs of care in their own home.
It is this omission that I find strange. The Conservatives believe it is wrong that 45,000 people every year sell their home to pay for residential care. Their response is not to improve care provided in the own home, so that they don’t actually have to leave their home, but appears to incentivize the opposite. Care in a residential care home could be free (if you have paid £8k) but you would still have to pay if you were receiving care at home.
Tory Shadow for Health and Social Care, Stephen O’Brien, believes that it will not create an incentive for people to move into residential care because the desire to remain at home is so strong, therefore this policy will help those who have to move into care. I am not wholly convinced and what happens to those who cannot afford £8000 has not been mentioned either. This policy does allow people to keep their home, but does not seem to help them live in it.
My second question regards the amount. A one off voluntary £8000 will guarantee the Government pays all residential fees, which presumably means the cost of care and the cost of accommodation. In the same article on their website, the Conservative’s say the average amount in fees some pay is over £50,000. This means that you would need 5 or 6 people paying into a scheme to cover the costs of 1. I would love it if anybody reading this blog knows of current figures and projected trends for residential care…
Big announcements, but questions still to be answered.
When it comes to looking at the detail, take care,
If you hear me saying “I’m going green” you may think I have fallen in line with my girlfriend’s environmental leanings. However, until the Government’s consultation ends on 13th November, it means that I’m off to a meeting about the Green Paper on reforming social care. Today was my first “going green” day.
Minister for Care Services, Phil Hope and Director General of Social Care, David Behan led a meeting to discuss the various proposals in the Green Paper. After a brief summary of the Green Paper they asked for questions. I am usually polite and don’t make a Usain Bolt like dash for the microphone but in this instance it was within arms reach so how could I not?
On page 114 of the Green Paper, it is suggested that in a Comprehensive Model, where everybody aged 65+ has to make a financial contribution, couples could be asked to pay less. The Green Paper gives two reasons for this:
• The costs to a couple having to use savings to pay two contributions could be very high
• Couples often provide mutual care and support, therefore saving the social care system money
I am not convinced by the first reason given that it is increasingly common for both adults to be working, but I do see the logic of the second. It is fair that we value in-kind contributions that carers give to the system by reducing the financial contribution we ask them to pay.
My question was whether they would be prepared to extend the proposal to all carers as there are lots of carers who are not caring for a partner but should be equally valued. It would appear strange if only carers with a romantic interest would qualify, although it might hasten the return of Blind Date to help match people up.
Their answer was that if this was a case that the carers’ movement wanted to make, then we should make it and the Department of Health would listen. There are various issues within the Green Paper that will affect us all but this is one of the only issues that is specific to carers and it demands our attention.
Carers provide the majority of care and support, and without them the social care system would collapse. These in-kind contributions are as important to the future sustainability of social care as any model of raising extra funding for it is. And it should be treated as such. What carers give should be valued by the State giving something back in return. It is fair, it is right and we should make sure that the Government, Parliament, councillors and even the man down the road know this.
However, we cannot win the argument alone. For carers to pay less, others will have to pay more and it is their support that we need. We need them to accept that this is a fair “trade-off” (a new Dept of Health buzzword going by today) and support our campaign on this. We have a briefing on this issue and will be running a poll on it later this month. Please take part in it and encourage others to do so. If we’re going green, then it’s time to move.
Take care, and take action
PS. Despite my clarion call to support Queens Park (aka The Spiders) last week, they unfortunately fell to a 1-0 defeat to Berwick Rangers at the weekend. 519 hardy fans paid money to watch it.