Social care ‘levy’ debated in Wales

Welsh AMs have debated the cost of caring for older people in Wales, questioning proposals to introduce a separate levy on the public to pay for social care, or incorporate it into the Welsh rate of income tax.

In one of two debates this week, health and social services minister Vaughan Gething told AMs that Wales has “to move ahead with new funding models if we are going to meet demographic and quality challenges for the future.”

In an Assembly plenary session on finance, AMs were told of Welsh budget plans to raise the capital limit for residential care – the amount people can keep before contributing to the cost of their care – to £50,000 from April. The Assembly has said pledged a £7 million a year cash injection into the local government settlement from 2019-20 to pay for this.

In Wales, the ratio of over-70s to those aged 20 to 69 is expected to rise by the early 2040s from 23 per cent to 37 per cent and demand for spending on social care by over 85 per cent by 2035, at 2016-17 prices – a 20 per cent increase in spending per head and an increase in numbers requiring care of over 55 per cent.

One proposal to support demand from an ageing population is to implement an age-related public tax with rates of 1 to 3 per cent, declining over time to 1 per cent. However, Dai Lloyd (Plaid Cymru AM), noted: “A social care levy would not reorganise the care service or stop you having to sell your home to fund care either.”

In an earlier debate Jenny Rathbone (Welsh Labour) AM also called on ministers to drive up social care wages by putting pressure on  local authorities to only commission services from providers who recognise trade unions.

Summing up, Rhun ap Iorwerth (Plaid Cymru AM) said: “I’ve seen great care being provided to people in care homes in my constituency by people who are on very low wages, but they do it because they see that role as a calling for them, or a vocation for them. I see a lack of beds locally for people who can’t afford to pay for their own care. I see departments of social care in local authorities not being able to pay for the kind of care that they’d like to provide for people across Wales. Somehow we have to aim for the kind of sustainable system that all of us want to see.”

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