Introduce free personal social care
Free support for over-65s will help people age with dignity and close unsustainable divide between NHS and social care.
Adult social care is one the most important public services in the UK. For hundreds of thousands of people it provides vital care and support – in their homes or in a residential setting – to ensure that they can maintain their independence, dignity and quality of life as they age. This may involve receiving help with basic tasks such as getting up or eating, or 24-hour support for people with complex needs such as dementia.
But unlike its sibling service – the NHS – social care has been consistently undervalued. This can be seen in the different principles which underpin the two services: whilst the NHS is free at the point of need, social care in England is means tested, with only those on low incomes entitled to receive statutory support. As a result, approximately half of all people formally receiving social care, privately finance at least part of their care – and this figure has been growing.
The UK’s population is set to age significantly over the next decade with the number of people over 65 set to increase by 33 per cent – compared to a mere 2 per cent increase in the number of working age adults. This will see demand for social care grow at an even faster rate than for the NHS. Failure to do so will not only result in meeting less need for older people, but increasing high-costs of care and greater inefficiencies in the NHS.
Implementing the following measures will improve quality of life and save the NHS £4.5bn a year:
- Introduce free personal care in England for over 65s.
This would mean that the care element (as opposed to the accommodation element) of social care would become free at the point of need.
- Fully fund free personal care.
Free personal care would require social care spending to increase from £17 billion per annum today to £36 billion by 2030. This is not cheap but would still represent an increase of less than 1 per cent of total government expenditure.
- Join up health and social care.
To fully unlock the benefits of free personal care it must be combined with fundamental reform in the model of care provided across the country, with a focus on delivering more joined-up, preventative, accessible and personalised care.
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