King’s Fund: Social care funding – fixing it once and for all?

Written by Joanna Clark

The social care crisis is currently playing out before our eyes, a delayed green paper (promised more than 18 months ago), the closure of care homes, years of budget cuts, a ‘black-hole’ in social care staffing and to top it all off an unstable political environment.

With demand rising, there’s one question on everyone’s lips – how do we pay for social care with an ageing population? Last Tuesday the King’s Fund gathered a panel of experts to answer that exact question. The Social care funding – fixing it once and for all? event, gave attendees the opportunity to hear solutions from a panel of industry authorities including:

  • Sally Warren, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund
  • Alison Holt, Social Affairs Correspondent at the BBC
  • Emily Holzhausen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK
  • Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, Chair of the Lords Economic Affairs Committee
  • Phil Hope, Former Minister of State for Care Services

Government’s role

When the current Prime Minister Boris Johnson entered Number 10 he talked about fixing social care once and for all, so there was an expectation that we were finally going to start seeing some movement on the political inertia around social care, but that just hasn’t happened.

Talking about the Government’s role in delivering social care, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, Chair of the Lords Economic Affairs Committee explained to the audience that, “the government has a duty to provide a net and ladder. A net below which no one will fall and a ladder for them to get out of the net. Social care meets people who can’t climb the ladder and the net is so full of holes that it is tearing under the pressure of increasing demand”.

Social care reform isn’t going to be simple, many people are not aware of what social care is, let alone how it works and this makes it hard to gain public support for improvement. As a priority government needs to steady the current system, not only boosting staff pay but also improving access to publicly funded care.

Who pays?

Perhaps the biggest issue of all is who pays for care. During the event we heard from Alison Holt, about the misconceptions that surround social care funding. The most common is that the NHS will fund care, but unfortunately this just isn’t the case. Although the NHS will pay for the care of those who are eligible, the social care landscape is made up of council funded services and self-funders who subsidise the system. Reflecting on her experiences producing the BBC Panorama series ‘Crisis in Care’, Alison explained that “often people are bumped between council and self-funding, leading to endless time-consuming arguments over who should pay.

The reality for most people is that they enter the care system at a point of crisis. What they are confronted with is a system that is underfunded, under pressure, under staffed, confusing and doesn’t give them the support they need.

Integrating health and social care

Phil Hope, Former Minister of State for Care Services suggested that one of the problems social care faces and why it is so different to the NHS, is the fact that not everyone will need care services in their lifetime.

He explained, “since 1948 a cult has built up around this fantastic thing we call the National Health Service but the same doesn’t apply and has never applied to the social care system. This is why we might see the NHS long-term plan talk more about the integration of the two. If social care can become more aligned, perhaps through devolution, with healthcare then it can ride on the coat tails of the NHS”.

Unsurprisingly, there were opposing views from the two politicians in the room as Lord Forsyth argued that social care funding should be kept separate as “urgent services will always be a priority’”.

Although the panel discussion highlighted many key issues, the point that stood out to me the most wasn’t actually around funding – it was the need to educate people about how the social care system functions. It was argued that explaining to the public how the system works will bring many benefits if and when a person might need to call upon social services.

The magic bullet to social care’s woes isn’t coming anytime soon, but in the meantime there is a real need to arm people with information so they can navigate the system knowingly. Sajid Javid’s short-term £1.5bn funding boost for adults’ and children’s social care is a good start but there needs to be long-term provisions in place, otherwise there is a risk of wiping out both the net and the ladder.

The event highlighted the complexities of the social care market and the lack of public awareness and understanding that comes with it. At Mantis we work with a variety of technology companies all selling solutions into the health and social care space: helping suppliers to build awareness, navigate the sector and work alongside their teams to support whatever sales ambitions they might have.

If you are an existing supplier to this sector, or a looking to enter this space, why not get in touch and see how we can help you.


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