The White Paper still leaves the care system in crisis
And although the Government has finally admitted that a radical reform of the care system is necessary to address the need for dignified care, Dr Altmann says that without committing to additional funding "the Government has basically given people the rights to decent care without the money to exercise those rights.
"Up and down the country families will still face losing everything if the level of care they require does not qualify for NHS or council help. Those who have put savings aside throughout their lives remain at risk of losing everything, while those with no assets receive free care.
"Will this system stop people from losing their life savings, including their family homes? The answer is no - people will still lose everything and there is no proper fair partnership between the individual and the State. Government has failed to reform the unfair means-test which takes away everything above £23,250 and the money simply isn’t there to ensure people don’t lose out so unfairly.
"The suggested 'universal deferred payment' loans may merely delay people having to sell their homes, but does not set a limit on how much people should spend on care. We also do not know what interest rate will be charged on these loans."
The good news is...
15 minute home care visits to be abolished
It is good news that councils have been instructed to ensure visiting hours of only 15 minutes will no longer be permitted but again, how can this be possible without additional funding. The answer is that more people will be denied care of any sort as councils manage budgets.
Free care for terminally ill
Although the funding source for this remains unclear, it is welcome news that free social care for life will be offered to those with that are terminally ill – anything that can be done to ease the last days of someone’s life is always going to help them and their family.
National standards for care
At last we have some guidelines for a national standard for care, instead of each regional local authority operating within different standards. This has always been the case for ‘health’ services and care should be no different. However, we do not believe it is right to punish councils who have struggled to maintain care for those with moderate needs while others have rationed care funding more stringently.
Rights for carers
It is, of course, important that we properly look after and value those who are caring for others. Giving them rights to an assessment is, however, not going to deal with the underlying problem of underfunding. If carers do not receive proper help, the NHS will pick up the pieces as their health deteriorates.
Personal budgets, more choice, more focus on the individual
Of course the Government’s aim of allowing families to choose how best to spend money to support those needing care is welcome. But giving people more rights and more choice, without increasing funding, does not make things better.
But the White Paper still leaves the care system in crisis...
Will it incentivise people to savings care - NO
We urge the Government to introduce a new Care Savings Allowance for the over 50s in the next Budget to allow tax free savings towards care for themselves or their relatives. Even if care funding is radically reformed, individuals will still have to fund a portion of their care costs themselves so it is vital that we help families put money aside just in case.
Will the current £23,250 cap for means-testing be increased to a more reasonable level - NO
This has yet to be decided. Andrew Dilnot suggested a raising the cap on the means-tested threshold to £100,000 and we think this vital to protect the life savings of those with modest means. There is no firm proposal for this, so the current unfair system remains.
Will it help people prepare for care – NO
Without more certainty on how much people should pay for care, how can people plan? And if no cap is decided for another two years minimum, it will be difficult for people to insure themselves against these costs.
Will it relieve pressure on the NHS – NO
Without a commitment to funding there is no guarantee that more at home care will be provided early on meaning more people ending up needing more costly medical care putting immense pressure on the NHS.
Risks to the NHS - This issue is not just about looking after older or disabled people. It will affect families up and down country and ultimately all of us, because the NHS will be unable to keep picking up the pieces of our broken social care system. Getting social care right, helping people plan and prepare properly and look after themselves will save money and resources in the NHS. Failure to reform care will end up costing us all far more when the NHS safety nets break down.
Will fair and decent care be offered to all – NO
Ultimately, this reform does not go far enough to offer fair and decent care reform. Without the additional funding that is so needed and incentives for people to save for their own care, our increasing ageing population will still be at risk. The Government has effectively stuck a plaster on a wound that is getting worse underneath. Covering up the issue will not really solving it.