Covid-19 has made the country’s broken social care system an important political subject, one that urgently needs solving. As with all complex political subjects, the solution will be far from simple.
Most recently, the government has announced that it is considering a new approach to the care funding crisis – they are considering taxing the over 40s more through the National Insurance system.
This is the latest in a long line of solutions suggested by various governments over the years. Some of you might remember the so-called ‘dementia tax’ preceded by the ‘death tax’, solutions that were floated by governments before being gunned down by the opposition.
In 2018-19, local authorities spent over £22bn on social care. While this might sound substantial, it’s actually less than the amount spent a decade ago. And this is against a backdrop of an elderly population with rising care needs.
Many don’t expect to need care, but the costs are real
Current figures suggest that around 70% of older people receive some sort of care, with more needing it but not receiving the support they require.
Care requirements range from an hour’s assistance at home to full time nursing home care. As a result, the costs vary dramatically.
Estimates place the hourly rate for at-home assistance at around £20. There may also be extra equipment costs depending on individual needs.
At the other end of the scale, those who live in care homes full time without government assistance pay an average of £645 a week for basic residential services. However, specialist care costs more. Dementia care in a specialist home comes to around £900 a week. Costs vary between regions – in the East of England the bill for this kind of care was an average of £1,060 a week.
How is care funded?
There is state support on offer, but only for those with total capital assets worth less than £23,250. Different limits and rules apply in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
When a person needs care, the local authority will assess them based on the value of their total assets, including property. The authority will then inform the person of the amount they will need to contribute to their care.
At present, less than a third of those who need care are fully funded by their local authority.
Over the years, the cost of long-term care can easily rise into the hundreds of thousands, yet barely a third of over 55s have plans to cover these costs.