Reform of social care funding should have been a priority for all governments that have run this country with varying degrees of success over the past 30 years.
Sadly, it has not been. It is an issue that has produced plenty of promises and lots of proposals, but no decisive action to date. Cost, it seems, has frightened off successive administrations from tackling one of the big issues our society faces.
The current government is as guilty as past administrations in its display of dilatoriness on this matter, although, in its defence, it has had bigger problems to contend with.
‘Problems’ that will not go away in a hurry, even if a mass vaccination programme against coronavirus comes on stream in the near future.
If we are lucky, proposals on social care funding reform may be announced by the government in the next few months, although it could well be autumn 2021 before the government reveals its hand.
The sooner the better, especially in light of the bold comments that Boris Johnson made just after becoming prime minister in the summer of last year.
“My job is to protect you or your parents or grandparents from the fear of having to sell your home to pay for the costs of care,” he said. “And so I am announcing now – on the steps of Downing Street – that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all, and with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve.” Well Mr Johnson, we are still waiting for the ‘fix’.
This week, I was a panellist at the virtual Protection Review annual conference, contributing to a debate on the role that the insurance industry could play in any future reform of social care funding.
The industry’s record in this area is not brilliant. Pre-funded care plans, available in the 1990s, are no longer sold because they proved too expensive for both insurers and customers. This means the only insurance option currently available is the immediate care annuity.
Yet it is obvious that insurance should play a key part in any reform of social care funding.
This point was made by three excellent contributors to the debate – a politician (Damian Green, MP for Ashford) and two individuals whose brains are immersed in insurance knowledge (Vitality Life’s Deepak Jobanputra and Gen Re’s Jules Constantinou).
They all came at the issue in different ways. Mr Constantinou looked at the important role insurance has played in long-term care funding in both Germany and Singapore, primarily as a top-up to state provision.
If such a public-private partnership works in these two countries, he argued, there is no reason why it could not work in the UK.