In his first speech as prime minister in July, Boris Johnson vowed to fix the social care crisis that has dogged the health care sector for the past 20 plus years. But in the Spending Round six weeks later, details of his promised “clear plan to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve” did not materialise. There was no mention of any reform to social care funding, just that his proposals would be published “in due course”.
This is a shame because there is no reason for him to kick the can further down the road. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has already outlined a credible solution to the crisis – free social care for all over-65s that need it, funded through general taxation. The proposal has received the backing of the House of Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee, the older people’s charity Independent Age, the GMB union and many others.
With 1.4 million over-65s living with unmet care needs because the current funding model is fundamentally broken, and with demand set to grow (the 65-plus population is forecast to rise by 33% by 2029), providing help with washing, dressing, eating and toileting free at the point of use seems like the humane response to the crisis and an eminently sensible idea.
An iteration of the policy has already met with success in Scotland, where personal care has been free for the over-65s since 2002 and is now being expanded to include the working age population. This suggests that the measure is at least cost-effective.
This policy does a number of crucial things. It stops asset-rich, income-poor homeowners from having to sell their homes just to meet their basic care costs, and it relieves pressure on the NHS by encouraging more older people to seek care earlier, before they slip into crisis. The IPPR estimates the policy could save the NHS £4.5 billion a year.
It also stops family carers from having to provide many hours of unpaid care each week, freeing them up instead to engage in the social activities that could really boost an older, disabled or ill relative or friend’s emotional and physical health. A recent report by Carers UK found that almost half (46%) of unpaid carers in England, some of whom provide over 50 hours of care each week, have not had a break from their caring responsibilities in over five years.
But best of all, free social care provides an impetus for the professionalisation of the social care workforce, which would elevate the status and the pay of staff. Introducing qualifications for care staff, standardised training and a clear career development pathway would help instil confidence in the care received while rendering the use of 15-minute care visits as untenable. The answer to the social care crisis already exists. It just needs the political will to implement it.
A grant to help cover your social care
If a female relative or friend requires domiciliary care or lives in a care home and is finding it difficult to meet social care costs or care homes fees, there is a charity which offers two grants which could help cover any shortfalls.
The St Andrew’s Society for Ladies in Need offers financial assistance in the form of a Care Home grant. This is a regular payment provided to cover any shortfalls in care home fees.
The charity also provides a Care at Home grant. This is a regular payment that can be used towards covering the cost of an elderly woman receiving care in her home.
Founded in 1874, the St Andrew’s Society for Ladies in Need provides a range of grants to retired women who live alone or women who are unable to work due to ill health or a disability. The grants are tailored to meet a range of needs. For example, the charity’s provides Regular Grants, which are paid quarterly, to help single women meet some of their day-to-day living expenses.
It also provides One-off Grants to help cover the cost of replacing washing machines, fridges, freezers and so forth. These grants can also be used to pay for a small household repair, heating bills, dental treatments or eye costs.
To qualify for a grant you must be a UK-born woman and “have achieved a good standard of education”. You should be in receipt of Pension Credit and have less than £8,000 in savings. To request an application form, email: mpope1@btinternet. com. You can also send your request via letter to: the General Secretary, 20 Denmark Gardens, Holbrook, Ipswich, IP9 2BG. For more details, visit www.standrewssociety.btck.co.uk.