Social Care White Paper

11th Jul 2012

Without real reform, we’ll have the best policies and laws in Europe on social care, stuck onto an out-dated, unsustainable, ineffective funding system, says Emma Stone.

"We'll have the best policies and laws in Europe on social care, stuck onto an out-dated, unsustainable, ineffective funding system." One step forwards but two steps back.

I rate the White Paper on Social Care. Clearly evidence-informed, it builds on the best of existing approaches and progresses key neglected challenges, including:

  • Stronger emphasis on prevention and low-level, local-level support (or as older people have described it, 'that bit of help' in your home and community) including a proposed duty on local authorities to commission and provide preventive services, and commitments to support approaches that combine community development with care and support locally.
  • More attention to the role of housing alongside health and social care for disabled and older people – backed up by £200m of capital funding over 5 years for a new 'care and support housing fund' to develop new housing options for older people and disabled adults, and an expectation that NHS and local authorities work together to support housing options.
  • Long-overdue rights to support for informal carers;
  • A national minimum eligibility threshold for social care and improved portability (difficult arguments to win in a pro-devolution era, and very important).

The promise of a single statute (thereby putting an end to decades of hotch-potch legislation) is significant indeed, as is the commitment to provide a single authoritative source of information (although we know people need more than the information: advice, assistance, advocacy). And there is a commitment to supporting a better evidence base via a 'national library' from 2013. All this is very good.

But.

It is barely credible that it has taken one year for all three parties to say they broadly agree with the #Dilnot principles for care funding in England. Instead of showing political bravery and foresight, the government has put a few more sticking plasters on the growing #carecrisis – just as we saw under successive Labour administrations which also failed to grasp the urgency of reform.

Today's proposal in the Progress Report to extend current practice on deferred payments and make it universal is not a 'watershed' announcement. It is a form of public equity release which we recommended in 2006, and exists already across the country. It can ease pressures for some older home owners, but I wouldn’t underestimate the challenge of making this more widely available and of negotiating the terms with local authorities already strapped for cash. It is a helpful measure, but not new, and no substitute for deciding on #Dilnot.

Without real reform, we’ll have the best policies and laws in Europe on social care, stuck onto an out-dated, unsustainable, ineffective funding system. What the Treasury above all needs to grasp is that the current system is chronically counter-productive. It stops us all from planning, whatever our age or support needs, whatever our means. It piles pressure on the NHS and other services, creates crisis and uncertainty, and carries a high human cost.

This is not the way forward.