The UK social and residential care system is of prime concern to those in later life, as it should be to any policymakers witnessing NHS beds ‘blocked’ for weeks, or months, for lack of suitable care packages, whether home-based (social) or residential in nature.
Both areas have been hammered by local authority funding squeezes and the very high costs involved. £4 billion of extra funding was announced, but above MPs’ cheers was the distinct sound of cans being kicked down the road, with yet another green paper.
Time for action
The latest report, which proposed a cap on costs, followed its many predecessors into the waste bin because it did not come up with the ‘right answer’ – to provide care at a low cost to the exchequer without eating the estates of its users.
This circle simply cannot be squared, and the problem is getting bigger all the time. There are more than a million people in the social care system, and the number of over 75s has increased by over 500,000 in the past six years alone.
Care is a huge policy challenge right now. The Budget measures will help, but they are only palliative. Tougher decisions need to be taken.
Malcolm Small is executive chairman of the Retirement Income Alliance.