UK can ‘choose’ good adult social care, says Andrew Dilnot

Economist says providing long-term care for senior citizens is an issue of choice and not affordability

Andrew Dilnot, chair of the Commission on Funding of Care and Support, said it is “nonsense” for anyone to say that the UK cannot afford adult long-term social care.

“It is an issue of choice and not affordability,” he told the King’s Fund’s 2011 annual conference. “Of course we have to make choices about spending on health and long-term care, and then how much do we spend as individuals or collectively through the state,” He pointed out that, as a country, Britain is four times better off than 50 years ago.

Dilnot, whose commission into adult social care ran for 12 months until July, said the social care market is such as mess that there is a good chance of improvement.

Speaking about the UK’s ageing population, he told the audience that in 1901 there were 61,000 people aged over 65 but now there are nearly 1.5 million and the number is rising.

“We haven’t had a problem adjusting to that. One of the characteristics of human societies and economies is that we respond very well to change,” he said.

However, during his commission’s investigations, the single over-riding response received from people was that they were terrified about their care in old age.

“And they are right to feel terrified. Imagine what it would be like if you did not have pooling of healthcare, if you did not have insurance for your car or your house?” asked Dilnot.

The commission hopes that its recommendations, under which people would pay for about £35,000 of care costs with the rest picked up by a communal fund, would prompt insurance companies to offer policies which would cover people’s capped liability.

In terms of the government paying for long-term care, he said that although public finances are “tricky”, and worse than they have been all the time he has been working in economics, he did not think that was an excuse for not acting.

Asked whether there are sufficient care providers offering good quality services and value for money, Dilnot responded: “Yes. Once the funding has been sorted out, my sense is that the problem we see at the moment is not so much value for money, but just not enough money being spent on this.”