Social care funding is at a “fork in the road”

“England is now at a clear ‘fork in the road’ between a better, but means-tested system, and one that is more like the NHS: free at the point of use for those who need it,” according to a new report by the Health Foundation and the King’s Fund.

The organisations say that the current system, which sees fewer people receiving publicly-funded care every year, will result in a £6 billion funding gap by 2030/31. If the system is improved, the costs go even higher:

  • Returning to levels of access and quality last seen in 2009/10 – before the current period of austerity – increases the funding gap to £15 billion
  • Introducing free personal care for all older people with needs above the current threshold: an extra £14 billion.
  • Protecting people from having to sell their homes by implementing a cap on the lifetime costs of care: £12 billion.  

Research to support the report finds that people have an extremely low understanding of how social care operates, with 34 per cent believing the government pays. When asked who should fund social care, 41 per cent felt it should be entirely tax-funded but ring-fenced to avoid diversion. The idea of people selling their homes to cover care costs, as exists now, were found to be deeply unpopular. 

The report sets out several options for social care reform.

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