Medical advances, coupled with improvements in healthcare, mean we are all living longer, with average life expectancy now up to 78.9 years for newborn boys and 82.7 years for girls. However, with these additional years often spent in poor health, the UK must find a way to fund its ever-growing care fees bill.
Step forward chancellor Philip Hammond, who used his first budget to announce a couple of measures to address the issues.
As well as an additional £2bn for adult social care services in England over the next three years, Mr Hammond also announced that a green paper would be published later this year to set out options for future funding.
The short-term cash injection was well received. “The additional funding is very welcome,” says Patrick Hall, social care fellow at The King’s Fund.
“Councils have seen a reduction in their funding over the last eight years and, while they have adapted to the cuts, it is a struggle to meet the growing demand for care.”
This is supported by research published this April by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Its report, ‘National standards, local risks’, shows that local authority spending on social care per adult resident fell by 11 per cent in real-terms between 2009-10 and 2015-16, taking it to an average of £381 per adult in 2015-16.
Across England, six out of seven councils had made a cut to the amount they spend per person, with one in 10 reducing it by more than 25 per cent.
While the funding boost was welcomed, the proposed green paper left many bewildered. With four major reports commissioned by the government over the past 20 years, Royal London described the announcement of a further review as ‘prolonging the decades of dithering’.
Previous reviews have included the Royal Commission on long-term care for the elderly, published in 1999; the Wanless review in 2006 and, most recently, the Dilnot Commission in 2011.
While some of the proposals from the Dilnot Commission went ahead, the government announced in 2015 that the £72,000 care cap, which was scheduled to be introduced the following year, would be delayed until 2020.
And while the Department of Health is sticking to the 2020 introduction line, Hall believes the fact it did not get a mention in the Spring Budget means it has been booted into the long grass.
Review wish list
Faced with another blank sheet for this latest review, many would like to see the government taking a much more radical approach to addressing the funding of social care.
Manj Kalar, head of public sector at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, explains: “Delays in the transfer of care between the NHS and local authorities contribute significantly to the decreasing efficiency of care. An integrated and whole system approach is needed to develop potential solutions to this issue.”
As well as overhauling the way care journeys are managed and funded, the review also needs to set out clear guidelines on whose responsibility it is to provide and pay for care. For example, according to Hall, around six million people provide care to friends and family members.