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Government faces up to crisis in care funding

14 July 2009
Carers UK reaction to care and support green paper

Carers UK today (Tuesday 14 July 2009) welcomes the publication of Shaping the Future of Care Together – the long awaited care and support green paper – stating that it sends a bold strong statement that Government is ready to face up to the debate needed to solve the crisis in care funding. The Green Paper sets out options for a radical overhaul that includes clear national entitlements – a National Care Service – helping to do away with the postcode lottery of care.

The paper sets out five options for change – the first that everyone should pay for their care which Government has already ruled out. The second is a partnership model where costs are clearly set out, the state pays for part and the individual pays a proportion – similar to the proposals issued by the Kings Fund. The third proposal they call insurance where everyone has an entitlement to have a share of their care costs met – but the extra costs are through private insurance or a state insurance scheme and if people pay into this scheme they receive all their basic care and support free. They say that they can pay it in instalments, lump sum on retirement or after death if preferred – and this is only for people over retirement age. The fourth proposal is comprehensive and compulsory where everyone over retirement age will be required to pay into an insurance scheme and is varied according to what people can afford. The final and fifth proposal is that it is fully funded by taxation which is ruled out by Government.

This shows that Government understands the grave economic and social problems that we face if we do not get to grips with the care crisis facing the country today. One in five people has had to give up work to care for a relative, leaving them with lower pensions and forcing some families into poverty permanently. This also leaves businesses and employers without key staff, and losing vital knowledge and skills, at a great loss to economic competitiveness.

Imelda Redmond, Chief Executive of Carers UK said, "What we need to do now is to test these ideas with the public and importantly, with families – disabled and older people and the people caring for them. They need to tell us what they think will work. It is time for the public to make their views heard in this big care debate. We must make this one of the most important policies of the decade since it touches so many people's lives."

The current system leaves many families facing huge uncertainty about what support is available and how they should pay for it. It is complex, hard to navigate and is poorly co-ordinated and this can have devastating impacts on families. People often cannot find out what help is available until it is too late because the system is so complicated. As a result, they miss out on vital income, work and support which would have made a critical difference to their health and well-being.

There is no doubt that the social care system is seriously underfunded and needs greater investment if people are to have the level of care that they expect. There will be £6 billion gap in funding over the next 20 years. Carers UK believes this to be an underestimation of the funding that needed as this figure is based on the Wanless review looking at the care needed by older people only. The proposals for bringing more money into the system are very different with a range of consequences. It is critical that the public engage in this debate.

The Paper also talks about carers being the bedrock of social care – and pledges that the new system must be on the side of families who are providing care. There are six million people currently providing unpaid care to disabled, chronically ill and frail people in the UK. The number of these carers providing over 20 hours care per week has been increasing - from 1.5 million in 1990 to 1.9 million in 2000. By 2037 we will need an extra 3.4 million carers - an increase of nearly 50%.

Some of the options of the Green Paper live up to several of Carers UK's tests but not others. One of the proposals suggests shifting money spent on the cash benefit – Attendance Allowance – into the care system. This could have serious consequences for many families.

Carers UK campaigned for a vision for social care which is bold, practical and spans generations. We welcome the recognition that there needs to be a system of national clear understandable entitlements to help people plan for the future and understand what they are entitled to. All political parties must find common ground with which to go forward. Families are making this an increasingly political issue based on their day to day experiences of trying to manage care. The political parties worked together to find some solutions for pensions and we need the same approach for care.

Carers UK tests for the green paper are that:

families are central to reform

it will deliver a system that is transparent and fair – which people will be able to use easily and understand any entitlements they have. Carers UK has called for a universal offer and national entitlement.

it delivers a solution that lifts families who care out of poverty

it recognises the role that care plays in people's ability to work

it recognises the economic impact of the lack of care on business

it recognises modern solutions to age old problems e.g. technological solutions being commonplace rather than the exception, more flexible services like prescriptions being delivered to your workplace or home.

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