The Government should make social care free at the point of delivery, a former health minister has urged.
Speaking at a social care event organised by the think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research and the charity Independent Age on 14 November, former health minister and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham called on the Government to fund social care through general taxation.
In March, former health and social care Jeremy Hunt promised a green paper on social care – initially due in the summer – looking at how the sector can be properly funded in the long-term. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told Healthcare Leader that a plan is due ‘to be published before the end of the year’.
Make social care free for all
Mr Burnham said social care should be funded on the same principles as the NHS, protecting people from ‘catastrophic costs’.
He added: ‘If you reform social care on the principle [that] people have to carry on paying for their care, it will never be able to talk the same language as the rest of public services.
‘This is essential care and yet we’re still asking [people] to pay for it in a way that is different from public support. You will not have an efficient public service delivery unless you have a social care system that can sit as part of a single budget.’
The cost of social care currently depends on a person’s level of need and the financial assets they have. According to NHS England, people who have savings of more than £23,250 and own a property, are not eligible for their local council to pay towards the cost of their care.
An after-life tax?
Mr Burnham argued that people using social care services should not be charged while they are alive but taxed on the funds that remain after their death.
He said: ‘You have to start with older people paying differently for their social care on the NHS principles so you can begin aligning those systems.
‘Surely, it’s a much better system [if we] say “pay 10-15% of what you leave behind as your contribution to a fully free at the point of use social care system and have peace of mind while you’re alive”.’
Responding to Mr Burnham’s comments, ADASS president Glen Garrod said the ‘Government needs to grasp the nettle’ of the social care crisis and consider long-term funding options with the public.
He told Healthcare Leader: ‘Adult social care simply cannot continue with inadequate and short term fixes. There are more than a million people with unmet need, with around a third of these coping with loneliness much or all of the time.
‘Councils’ ability to prioritise prevention measures – key to long-term savings to the public purse – are being impacted due to funding pressures.’