Opinion  

Will the govt's levy really address the UK's care needs?

Mel Kenny

Mel Kenny

Let’s get this clear. The policy paper “Build Back Better: Our Plan for Health and Social Care” worth £12bn a year for the next three years is primarily targeting immediate NHS needs with £10.2bn.

The remaining £1.8bn is going towards the cost of the social care cap, the increased capital limit before having to pay from capital, and helping self-funders get a better rate of cost for their care with the help of their local authority. 

According to a 2017 report by the Competition and Markets Authority, self-funders pay approximately 40 per cent more than what local authorities pay for the same accommodation, which has been effectively another tax.

It is still not enough for the NHS and it does so little towards solving the day-to-day social care crisis, for which Health Foundation estimates £6bn a year is needed to tackle the shortfall in social care funding.

The national government continues to set the quality of publicly funded care as the local authority’s problem to solve through driving efficiencies on already strained budgets and council tax rises, which, in effect, shares the blame for the need to raise revenues. In three years' time the funding flips to favouring social care, but this remains to be seen given we will be in a new parliament, possibly facing different challenges.

The social care element of the paper raises the means-tested capital limits of needing to contribute to the cost of care. Currently if you have capital below £14,250 then you would not need to contribute to the cost of your eligible care should your income be insufficient.

If you have capital between £13,250 and £23,250 then you will need to make a contribution. If you have capital more than £23,250, you pay the care shortfall in full until capital drops to below £23,250.

These limits rise to £20,000 and £100,000 under the new plans, together with an overall cap of having to pay no more than £86,000 on qualifying care costs, but this does not include bed and board.

Crucially, only expenditure on eligible care will count towards the cap and this is limited to people assessed by the local authority as needing substantial care, and the clock does not start ticking until October 2023. Of those that currently meet the financial criteria for funding, more than half of the requests are turned down after an assessment of care needs.

The paper has come about because it has long been deemed unfair that those who have saved for their old age are penalised for doing so by having to pay the potentially catastrophic costs of their own care, while those who have been less prudent could be eligible for state funded care.

What is more is that those that were prudent but did not require as much care as they were potentially fearing, could still pay the price through inheritance tax.

But it is not just older people. Around half of the total expenditure on adult social care by local authorities is spent on working-age adults.