Now that the dust has settled, politicians, social care leaders and leading charities have picked over the government’s solution for social care. I am of the opinion alongside many others, that it does not represent a good deal for social care.
Backing for Boris Johnson
Boris has been acclaimed by some for grasping the nettle. Political leaders going back to the Tony Blair era have turned their backs on the problem. It is now more than a decade ago since Sir Andrew Dilnot published his report. He feels Boris has fulfilled his pledge he made on the steps of Downing Street in July 2019.
I cannot get away from the fact that the government faced with the challenge of borrowing more money to support the NHS in catching up with the delay in operations, decided to lump the money generated from National Insurance with the funding of social care.
I believe it was a matter of political expediency rather than an evaluation of the needs of social care. In the first 3 years of the new scheme, most of the money will be syphoned off to the bottomless pit of NHS. It is also alarming that the small amount of funding allocated for social care has not been ring fenced. In essence, who is to say that even the small amount allocated to social care will ever reach the sector if the NHS come under more COVID pressure.
The government plan is to transfer more of the money in three years’ time, when they hope the NHS will have caught up with the backlog of people requiring hospital treatment. But leaders of the NHS are already crying wolf claiming the amount they have been given is not nearly enough.
Dilnot says the NHS has a veracious appetite for funds, so the competition between health and social care will continue and needs to be closely monitored. The issue needs to be resolved in the spending review this autumn.
Cost of care
In the presentation of the governments package, the cost of what people pay for their care has overshadowed the needs of those who provide social care. The aim of government was to demonstrate to the public that they had solved the problem of people having to sell their houses to pay for their care, by placing a cap on care contributions at £86,000. However, Laing Buission reckon only 5% living in residential care will benefit from the scheme.
The Government have missed a golden opportunity of social care reform. People working the sector must feel second class to the political sacred cow of the NHS. Why did the government miss the opportunity of introducing a strategy designed to achieve closer working relationships with the NHS and social care. Surely, the government must outline its strategy for social care before it can be adequately funded.
At the heart of the governments concern about COVID-19 is the ability of the NHS to cope with the number of patients admitted to hospital and the availability of bed space. Properly funded and staffed, care homes could free up NHS bed space and relieve the problem.
People can no longer argue that Boris Johnson has not kept his pledge on social care. Quite rightly the focus of the general public will be on how the funding accrued from national insurance will enable them to keep their homes at a time when they are forced to sell them to pay for care costs. The omens are not good however as it is estimated by experts only 5% of those eligible will benefit from the scheme.
The contribution of those who provide social care to the health and wellbeing of the population has once again failed to be recognised. Adequate funding of social care has lost out to the demands of the NHS. It could be argued that the national insurance scheme is a means of political expediency saving the government more borrowing, saying nothing about much needed reform of the NHS and social care. In all this is not a good deal for social care.
Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy