Social care should adopt the state pension model to give equal and universal access to care, the MP who commissioned the social care green paper has suggested.
In Fixing the Care Crisis, a report by Conservative Damian Green MP for the think tank Centre for Policy Studies, the politician argues that the current system is ‘financially and politically unsustainable’.
The Government should, Mr Green argues, provide a universal care entitlement to guarantee basic and good care for everyone.
Mr Green envisages for the universal care entitlement to be accompanied by a care supplement, encouraging citizens to top up the care guaranteed by the state if they want to receive enhanced services.
The report estimates the funding gap in social care to be around £2.75bn and suggested other solutions to address the social care funding crisis.
These include increasing national insurance contributions by 1% on those over 50, although this was an option it said should be considered as ‘last resort’.
Mr Green, who commissioned the long-anticipated social care green paper when he was first secretary of state, said the social care crisis causes problems for the health service.
There were, for example, ‘1.98 million delayed transfers in 2017/18 for those moving out of NHS care, of which 844,000 involved social care’.
He said: ‘I propose a wholesale change in our approach to social care, mirroring the state pension system with the introduction of a universal care entitlement and care supplement.’
The Local Government Association estimates that adult social care services face a £3.5bn funding gap by 2025, and that councils spend more than £15bn on social care every year.
However, Mr Green’s proposals would, the report said, free councils from an ‘increasing financial burden’.
The report added that, under the proposed model, councils would continue to be involved in the provision of social care.
However, there would be a shift from the existing system ‘in which the state provides care via local authorities – to a nationally funded model, where the state pays this set amount for each week or month that an elderly person needs support’.
Demand for social care has increased by nearly 4% since 2015/16 but fewer people are receiving help, according to research recently published by The King’s Fund.
Centre for Policy Studies director Robert Colvile said social care funding has been an ‘intractable issue’ because it was difficult to find a solution that would benefit everyone equally.
However, he said that Mr Green’s proposals ‘would pass all the key tests – the system would be sustainable, there would be protection against the “dementia lottery”, no one would have to sell their own homes, everyone would have access to a decent level of essential care, and those who paid in more would get access to extras such as bigger rooms or more frequent excursions’.
He added: ‘I urge politicians from all parties to consider these proposals extremely carefully.’
No date has yet been set for the social care green paper, which was initially announced two years ago and has been postponed several times since then.