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By Chris Horlick | Published Jul 18, 2012

Social care up in the air

Few can be unaware of the publication of the long awaited Care and Support White Paper. With it came a Draft Care and Support Bill and Progress Report on funding has been published. But what does it mean and should we be cheering?

Most immediate press and stakeholder comment has been scathing about lack of clarity how new proposals will be funded. This has been relegated to the Comprehensive Spending Review, results of which will be expected in 2013/2014. This means, that few funding proposals are imminent and, given the close proximity to the next general election in 2015, to all intents and purposes, must be considered to be lost in the long grass. However there is a lot within it that is good and should be welcomed.

The Social Care White Paper at long last provides a clear, modern and effective framework for the provision of adult social care services where previously there had been a disconnected system that found its antecedents in the Poor Laws.

Many of the provisions within the White Paper provide coherent proposals as the government seeks to address current inequalities in the care system. This includes provisions for national eligibility criteria and portability of care assessments which go a long way to ending the current post code lottery.

There is also a lot to welcome from a financial services perspective and particularly for financial advisers.

From April 2013, the government will provide a “clear, universal and authoritative source of national information about the health, care and support system.” As part of the reform programme, the government will also legislate to ensure that local authorities provide a comprehensive information and advice service for individuals, regardless of whether they are entitled to any state-funded support towards the cost of their care.

What is relevant is that it is the government’s intention that this should also include financial advice.

This is a vital step to ensuring that the 41 per cent of people in the care system who are self-funders, as they have assets exceeding £23,250 (including their home) in England, receive access to appropriate advice.

I believe this is the government’s intention as in the Progress Report on funding the government highlights the creation of an expert working group involving the government, financial services sector and local authorities to explore how links with pensions and specialist financial advice (among other areas) can be included in a comprehensive care information offer.

We hope that the results of this working group together with the creation of a comprehensive information and advice service will transform the shocking survey findings which found that in 2009 out of 53,000 self-funders who went into residential care – only 7000 received appropriate advice. It is hardly surprising that one in four self-funders run out of capital and fall back on the state at an estimated cost to local authorities in England of £1bn each year.

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