To protect older peoples dignity and independence action is needed to fund care and insure quality care is available.
Green Paper Sets Out Care Reform Challenge, UK
Age Concern and Help the Aged has welcomed the long-awaited publication of the Government's Green Paper on reform of the care and support system.
While agreeing that a public debate is needed, the charity called on politicians from all the political parties to set out definitive proposals for reform and a clear timetable for action as soon as possible. To protect older people's dignity and independence, urgent action is needed not just to fund care in a fairer way but also to ensure good quality care is available to all who need it.
The charity strongly welcomed proposals for a National Care Service to end the postcode lottery and the commitment that everyone would get some support from the government. It also strongly supports the need to raise further funds to pay for a better care system for all.
Age Concern and Help the Aged Charity Director Michelle Mitchell said:
"Today's Green Paper signals a welcome willingness to confront some of the hard questions about how to fix our broken care system. All political parties and the public must now look beyond the short term squeeze on our national finances to agree a fairer way to pay for care. High quality care must be available to all who need it regardless of where they live and whether they are rich or poor.
"With time now short, the Government must set out a clear timetable to move from debating options to agreeing and implementing specific proposals. The opposition parties have rightly criticized the slow progress on care reform but now they too must rise to the challenge by backing government plans or bringing forward their own."
While strongly supporting proposals to 'pool' the risk of paying for care, the charity also warned that the costs must be shared fairly across the generations. It is concerned about proposals to abolish a benefit that helps older people meet the cost of dealing with disability (Attendance Allowance) simply to prop up the system as it is today. The paper also floats the idea of older people paying a lump sum of at least £20,000 from retirement for a form of social insurance, which was rejected by older people in research carried out by the charity, but does not canvass views on lifelong contributions. It also stops short of suggesting care home accommodation costs should be met, which will impose another cost on older people.
With the debate so far largely focusing on costs and payments, the charity also called for more attention to be given to other key issues including providing more preventative care and how the quality of care can be improved.
Over the past year, Age Concern and Help the Aged have sought the views of thousands of older people about the future of care and support, as well as carrying out its own research into reform options. The charity will now immediately set to work measuring all the Government's proposals against the following tests:
Has the Government recognized that the care and support system is creaking at the seams and that more money is needed to fix it
Will the proposals protect the dignity and independence of older people and increase the choice and control they have over their own care
Will more services be made available to people who need support but are currently denied it
Are important benefits such as Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance protected
Will there be more preventative services to avoid the need for intensive support
Does the funding system guarantee free quality care for the poorest and pay a share of the costs for everyone
Will carers get more support to make sure they do not have to sacrifice their health, social relationships and financial security to care for a loved one
Is age equality protected by ensuring older people are not treated less favorably than younger people with similar needs
Will the new care and support system be understandable, transparent and easy to deal with
Does the Green Paper make it clear to all politicians that fixing the care and support system is an urgent priority
Our full briefing, testing the Green Paper against these points, will be published shortly.
Facts and Figures - England
An estimated 2.45m older people have at least some care needs (Wanless, King's Fund, 2006).
1,221,000 older people are receiving some local authority supported care services (NHS, Community Care Statistics, 2009).
1,025,000m older people get some local authority supported community-based care with 471,000 of these getting care at home and 27,000 getting direct payments. There are 266,000 supported in a care home. Some receive both community and care home support in the same year (NHS).
Older people are by far the majority of those needing care and support. Twice as many older people get supported care in the community than younger people and four times as many older people get supported in a care home (NHS).
35 out of 56 councils rated as 'excellent' by the Commission for Social Care Inspection, only provide care services to those with 'critical or substantial' needs. (Age Concern and Help the Aged, 2009)
A place in a care home in England costs an average of £24,000 per year while a nursing home places costs an average of £35,000 pa (Laing and Buisson, 2008)
It is estimated that older people spend in total £5.9 billion in paying for care out of their own money and the net spend by public authorities is £5.69 billion. (CSCI/CQC, 2008)
The current shortfall in care funding is between £1-2 billion per year which reflects both unmet entitlements and the need to improve the quality of the care that is provided (Age Concern and Help the Aged, 2009)
By 2026 the Government has estimated the shortfall will be £6b just to meet current entitlements (Department of Health, The case for change, 2008).
Age Concern England and Help the Aged have joined together to form a single charity dedicated to improving the lives of older people.
Details of our fight to reform the care and support system can be found here: www.ageconcern.org.uk/AgeConcern/quality-care-big-q.asp