Review Of Social Care Funding Launched

A fundamental review of social care that could lead to radical changes in the way the £10bn-a-year care business is funded is being launched by ministers.

An advisory group that brings together the Association of British Insurers, social services directors, local government more generally, and voluntary organisations such as Age Concern and Housing 21 will support Whitehall in what ministers see as a “once-in-a-decade chance to undertake a fundamental review of social care costs” and funding.

Options include higher spending to meet rising demand, a bigger range of charges for services, but also the “partnership” approach that Sir Derek Wanless, the government’s former adviser on healthcare, is to call for this week in a report for the King’s Fund health think-tank.

That involves scrapping the means-tested system for care and providing a basic package of services universally available and free.

The government would then match additional private spending pound for pound up to a limit. Housing costs would remain means-tested.

However, Sir Derek calculates that far fewer people would need to sell their homes to obtain care under this approach.

Sir Derek, the former NatWest chief, whose report says spending needs to rise to about £30bn a year by 2026 to meet demand, is to join the working group chaired by Liam Byrne, minister for care services.

The study is being undertaken as part of the Treasury’s comprehensive spending review, the full results of which will not be known until next year.

Mr Byrne said yesterday that the government had set out its ambitions for better care and more prevention in its white paper on care outside hospital in January. “Now we need to make sure that the money mirrors the mantra.”

{mosimage} The work will involve a “comprehensive examination of how social care funding works” and the question of who pays for what.

It will study the full range of options, including learning from Scotland’s experience of introducing free personal care, more charging, more spending, more insurance for care and greater use of schemes that allow people to release the equity in their homes, as well as Sir Derek’s “partnership” model.

This idea was advocated within government by Julian le Grand when he was Tony Blair’s health care adviser. “It is a zero-based review, so anything is in play,” Mr Byrne said.

The study will look not just at social care for the elderly – the area on which Sir Derek’s King’s Fund report has concentrated – but at support for vulnerable younger adults, those with learning disabilities and the mental health sector.

The study comes as a joint report from three public sector watchdogs said that “deep-rooted cultural attitudes to ageing” were hampering the development of better health and social care services.

Older people were far too infrequently consulted on what services they actually wanted, the report from the Audit Commission and the health social care inspectorates said.