Survey Suggests Tax Increase to Fund Social Care Provision

Support from social care agencies to enable people to live at home in the advent of a disability or long-term health condition is a key expectation of the British public, an Ipsos MORI survey  reveals today. The Ipsos MORI survey, commissioned by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC), the Equal Opportunities Commission and Carers UK, however, reveals a gulf between the public’s expectations about the kind of support they should receive and the reality of existing provision. This gulf is set to widen as the UK population ages and demand for social care grows, underscoring the need to reform the current system so that it enables both older and disabled people, and their relatives and friends who provide care for them, to keep their independence.

The survey findings will add weight to a Private Members Bill sponsored by Lord Ashley of Stoke which will eliminate the post-code lottery in the quality of social care and require social care agencies to pool funds to ensure better co-ordination of resources and cut back on red tape.

In the first survey of public attitudes to care since the publication of the Wanless Review*, the survey also reveals a high priority among the public for the choice not to live in residential care and a willingness to pay more taxes to fund better social care. Key findings from the report reveal that:

  • on the expectations about the kind of support they would receive from social care agencies, nine in ten respondents (90%) said that it was important that they should be able to stay at home if they develop a disability or long term health condition;
  • 87% believe it is  important that they are given the choice where they live, other      than just residential care;
  • two thirds of respondents (65%) agree it is important that support from social care agencies should enable them to stay in work.But the reality of social care provision on the ground tells a very different story:
  • the Wanless review into adult social care revealed that there are half a million older people whose needs were not being met;
  • nearly 70% of local authorities admit that they are only able to provide support to people whose needs are at the highest levels;
  • 300,000 people are currently residing in institutions with no alternative and no right to choose to live in their own home.

Assumptions about future generations’ willingness to undertake voluntary caring roles are also challenged in the survey. When asked about the likelihood of being able to provide regular unpaid care to a friend or family member who developed a disability or long term health condition, only one in five (21%) said they were very likely, while three in ten (29%) said they were fairly likely to. But more than a third (35%) of respondents said that they were unlikely to provide regular unpaid care in the future with men and women being equally represented in this group.

Support for paying more taxes to improve social care outweighs opposition. Fifty per cent of respondents back increased taxes to fund better social care against a quarter of respondents (26%) who disagree.

Responding to the survey findings Bert Massie, DRC Chairman said: “Our social care system is tilted in the wrong direction, keeping many people in a state of suspended animation and allocating scarce resources in the wrong way.  It needs to be transformed so that its endgame is to provide real opportunities for people to live independently and to be active, visible citizens rather than the passive recipients of what others deem best.

“Britons expect social care agencies to provide choices outside of residential care if they develop a disability or long term health condition and underline their priority for independence and control of their lives. These expectations, though, belie the reality of a social care system that is failing to do this and much more.

“Lord Ashley’s Private Members Bill seeks to bring into effect the recommendations of the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit over 18 months ago and create a social care system to meet the needs of disabled people and reflect what they and the public clearly want.”

Jenny Watson, EOC Chair said: “This survey is a wake up call for us all. There are 6 million carers in the UK today, nearly 60 per cent of whom are women. Many become carers when social care services can’t deliver what their relatives want or need, particularly when the only alternative on offer is institutional care. Carers often find it impossible to find work that they can balance with their caring role. As a consequence they face poverty in retirement, something that particularly impacts on women.

“The Government is taking the right steps to enable change, such as extending the right to request flexible working to carers and reforming our outdated pension system. But we also need to see the kind of investment in adult social care that we have seen in the past for childcare, one that is prolonged, systematic, and with services designed around users’ needs. Lord Ashley’s Bill should be welcomed by us all – because one day, we all may need the support that it provides.”

Imelda Redmond, Chief Executive of Carers UK said: “Providing care and support to family and friends who need help because of illness, frailty or disability, still often goes unseen and unrecognised. Over recent decades we have seen a change in family structure, with far more women working, smaller family size and greater geographical mobility.

“Today there are more than a million people providing 50 hours or more care per week. It is estimated that within the next 25 years the numbers of people providing care will increase by 50 per cent to 9 million. What we are seeing is a number of policy collisions that makes life for carers very difficult. There is real pressure for people to remain in work – and work for more years – and equally strong pressures to provide support to a loved one. The choice couldn’t be more difficult. We need to reverse the trend of poor investment in social care and the very low levels of state benefits available to carers.”