Adult social care is in crisis mode. We need a clear long-term plan

Every family is affected by the challenges of our ageing society. The government must act now to build health and care provision fit for all.

This party conference season, all political parties will use their platforms to set out a post-election vision. Adult social care was one of the big general election issues, and the government has indicated that an adult social care green paper is likely next year. The next few months are critical for capturing the views of the public, the health and care sectors and charities working to support older people.

At Future Care Capital, we have launched a new policy report about the challenges facing our ageing society and the implications for every generation. Addressing three key themes – intergenerational fairness and the economics of ageing, health and care futures, and planning ahead – we invited leaders from the public, private and third sectors to contribute. They considered how policies and spending decisions that impact health and care outcomes could better reflect the challenges and opportunities we can expect in the next five, 10 and 15 years.

Our report also calls for a more concerted effort to in the short-term to adapt homes and public spaces for age and mobility, as well as recognition of the contribution of carers to the economy and measures to improve their work-life-care balance.

What’s striking is the consensus that there is no long-term plan for health and adult social care and that the result is a growing care deficit. Our health and care services are facing a perfect storm; the country’s population is getting older and the number of care workers is insufficient to meet future demand. At the same time, 10% of people already identify as unpaid carers, which has implications for their work-life-care balance and the wider economy. Tackling the problem in isolation is not an option. The government needs to collaborate with communities, service commissioners and providers, and charities and innovators to forge a way forward.

A new settlement for health and care or a “care covenant”, underpinned by our future care guarantees, could offer greater security to everyone. These guarantees call on the government to introduce a new funding formula for health and care services, to champion independent living by investing in pre-care measures and education to build a bigger care workforce.

One key issue is a general lack of understanding among the public about the scope of state-funded adult social care services and who should pay for them.

Some 67% of 16 to 75-year-olds agree that people should be required to plan and prepare financially for later life, while 49% agree they should have to plan and prepare financially for adult social care services they might need, according to a survey we conducted with Ipsos Mori.

In addition, it found many people support a range of income tax rises to increase the amount of funding available for adult social care. Raising the additional rate from 45p to 50p was supported by 58% of those surveyed, increasing the higher rate from 40p to 43p by 57%, and half backed a raise in 1p of the basic rate.

What’s more, 76% of those surveyed said increasing the number of health and social care workers would ease pressure on the system, and 71% thought that providing greater support for unpaid carers would be effective.

Our ageing society represents one of the biggest human challenges of our time – every family is affected. We need political consensus on our direction of travel – a long-term plan to guide the policies of successive governments to improve health and care outcomes and enable people to plan ahead. Otherwise, we will remain in fire-fighting or crisis mode. The government’s forthcoming green paper affords it a prime opportunity to act now and build health and care provision fit for everyone in our society.

Joel Charles is deputy chief executive of Future Care Capital

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