A leading think tank has called for the financial eligibility criteria for social care to be widened to entitle more people to support, ahead of the Queen’s Speech next week.
The King’s Fund’s latest report (6 May) – an analysis of the sector since 2010 – said that failure to account for inflation in the means test has meant less people are eligible for care.
Currently, if a person’s financial assets sit below £14,250, they are not required to contribute to the cost of their care. But if it is valued at above £23,250, they will have to fund all social care costs.
The King’s Fund said that the upper threshold has not changed since 2010/11, meaning that when inflation is considered, ‘the threshold in fact went down’.
It added that if the threshold had kept pace with inflation, it would be £5,995 higher than the current threshold, rising to £29,245.
‘By not increasing the threshold in line with inflation, successive governments have made the means test even meaner: it has become harder for people to get publicly funded social care, reducing its cost to the taxpayer,’ the report said.
The Minimum Income Guarantee – an amount which a person’s income must not drop below as a result of social care charges – has also not increased in line with inflation, the King’s Fund said, which means adults with disabilities ‘can be charged more for care at home’.
It added: ‘Letting these thresholds drift downwards in real terms is consistent with a failure to tackle the longstanding issues in adult social care and introduce proper reform.’
More funding to meet demand
The King’s Fund also called for increased funding to support the sector, citing the Health Foundation’s estimate that £1.9bn will be needed ‘simply to meet demand’ by 2023/24.
It also said that funding is needed to meet existing unmet need and improve the quality of services, separate to any funds allocated to cover Covid-19-related costs.
The think tank called for four other key actions to be taken, including:
- Workforce reform to offer better pay, training and development for staff
- Giving people more control over the services they use, with Government action needed to increase the number and quality of direct payments
- Prevention to take centre stage, with greater investment in services like reablement
- Carers to receive more support after having taken on a greater burden during the pandemic.
‘Spending per person has fallen’
Simon Bottery, senior fellow at the King’s Fund and lead author on the report, said that there was a ‘continuing gulf’ between what people need and what people receive in the sector.
‘The latest data paints a bleak picture with few causes for optimism. Even where measures have improved there are often caveats,’ he said.
‘Local authority spending on social care has finally returned to the levels of 2010/11 but not if you take population growth into account; spending per person has fallen. Care worker pay has improved but is not rising as fast as other sectors so vacancies remain high.’
He added that local authorities do not have the money to meet increasing demand and long-term, wide ranging reform was ‘urgently’ needed.
Last month, 26 healthcare leaders, MPs, and Lords also wrote to the Prime Minister calling for him to deliver on his commitment to social care reform when Parliament opens next month.