Wales tax rises considered to pay for growing care costs


Tax rises to cover the cost of caring for elderly and disabled people are being considered by the Welsh Government.

The money raised could be spent on abolishing care fees or on a pay rise for care workers.

A consultation on possible reforms to social care is due to start this summer.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething is set to call for "honesty" and a "grown-up debate" about increasing care costs.

But the idea of raising income tax is likely to prove contentious in the run-up to the Welsh elections next year.

Social care is under pressure across the UK from a squeeze on funding, an ageing population and high staff turnover.

The state spends about £1.2bn on adult social care every year in Wales.

But in a statement to AMs on Tuesday Mr Gething will say the cost is predicted to grow between £30m and £300m by 2023.

If the government wants "to seriously improve the quality and the reach of care, then it will require more funding", he told BBC Wales.

"If you want to unpick all that and say 'actually we don't want to raise taxes', you've then got to be prepared to identify where you'll take money from."

Raising money from elsewhere would involve targeting other services for cuts "and after a decade of austerity I'm not sure that's really a viable prospect, but if other people want to make that argument then of course they can do".

Social care: 'Why we can't afford to save for old age'

How many more of us are living longer?

If you're in your mid-30s and living in Wales now, you could be one of more than 220,600 predicted to be living beyond their mid-80s in Wales in 50 years' time.

That's nearly as much as today's combined populations of Newport, Barry and Pontypridd.

Ageing population prediction

Proportion of elderly people to overall Wales population

Source: ONS, October 2019

Currently, the population of over-85s stands at just under 85,300.

The numbers of people aged over 70 and in the oldest age group are growing steadily - and as a proportion of the overall population.

Predicted cost of adult social care

£bn in Wales

Source: The Health Foundation, 2016

Health economists have predicted too that this will translate into the cost of looking after people as they live longer.

The Health Foundation says pressures for adult social care are projected to rise faster than for the NHS, by an average of 4.1% a year.

Fully funding these pressures in Wales would require an extra £1bn by 2030-31, it found.

A report by another economist, commissioned by the Welsh Government, suggested an income tax increase of between 1% and 3% could be used to fund social care - but would vary depending on age and income.

What will happen now?

Changes will not happen before next year's Welsh assembly elections.