Social care  

Calls for social care to be 'free at point of use'

Calls for social care to be 'free at point of use'

A former adviser to health secretary Matt Hancock has called on the government to reform social care and make it "free at the point of use" in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis.

A report by think tank the Policy Exchange, compiled by health and social care lead Richard Sloggett, argued the Covid-19 crisis should be used to remove the “historic funding barrier” between the NHS and social care and push for reform to the sector.

It has suggested that new measures should be introduced in the tax system to fund social care and allow it to be largely free at the point of use for older and working age people who require long-term care.

According to the think tank, this would address the funding gap which currently exists between the NHS and social care by making them both operate on “free at the point of use” systems.

Mr Sloggett said any long-term funding solution put forward by the government would “generate a positive legacy from this terrible virus”.

He said: “What comes next for health and social care policy is impossible to fully predict, but to deliver a healthier, wealthier nation post Covid-19 new thinking will be needed. 

“This virus has raised fundamental questions about the resources available for health and social care, how they are divided, how workforce challenges across the NHS and social care can be addressed, the potential of digital health to transform the access and delivery of healthcare services and the resilience of healthcare supply chains.”

Social care funding has been a long running issue with the green paper, which was originally expected to be published in summer 2018, never being published.

The industry has come up with a number of suggestions including a Care Isa and Care pension but so far nothing seems to have been picked up by government.

Instead the government pledged to address the issue but disclosed sparse details in its Queen's Speech in October. 

It subsequently outlined a three-point plan in the December Queen's Speech.

This plan included an additional £1bn for councils in every year of the parliament, with the government pledging to consult on a 2 per cent precept that would enable councils to access a further £500m for adult social care for 2020-2021.

The government made no plans to reform social care in the subsequent March Budget.

Mr Sloggett said: “With people over 70 more susceptible to the virus will Covid-19 focus minds in Whitehall on finally bringing forward a package of social care funding reform? How can most people’s primary asset, their house, be kept sacrosanct when the public finances will be in financial difficulty? 

“Does this crisis mean we are set for further delays in social care reform, with a timetable for action before the end of the parliament tightening? Will reform now have to come with tax rises? 

“Some will argue that the level of economic rebuilding that is needed post the outbreak makes social care reform ‘unaffordable.’