Is it just me…?

Editor in Chief, Robert Chamberlain explores research into public opinion of care funding in the context of the Care Act’s funding reforms.

The Government’s message to the general public is that the Care Act’s funding reforms will cap an individual’s spend on care fees making the system much fairer and affordable. However, a number of recent surveys have highlighted mixed confidence amongst the population regarding the prospect of paying for care in the future.

Lack of confidence

A YouGov survey commissioned by the Care and Support Alliance, a coalition of 75 leading charities, is one of the largest to examine public attitudes to social care. With over 4,500 people in England surveyed, the findings show a lack of confidence in the prospect of receiving sufficient care packages of a good quality. There is also a strong belief that the Government needs to do more to improve the social care system.

The statistics will send a strong message to the Care Services Minister, Norman Lamb MP who should be alarmed by their implications. Only 40 per cent of people showed confidence in receiving sufficient care in the future and just 30 per cent believed that this care would be of good quality. 70 per cent felt that they would be unable to afford the care that they will need, this figure rises to 77 per cent amongst the over 60s.

There is strong and clear public demand for these critical issues to be addressed. Two-thirds of the over 60s surveyed felt that the Government should be prioritising social care over and above other areas and expenditure should be increased. To emphasise the extent of the impact of the issues on the population, the findings show that one in three in England either rely on social care themselves or have a close family member that does.

Further concerns

A separate report produced by specialist insurer Partnership highlights further concerns among the general public. Over the period 2012 to 2014, 4,740 over 45s and almost 200 advisers were interviewed as to their thoughts on social care. The findings revealed that, whilst only 21 per cent of those surveyed did not believe that the new care cap would limit an individual’s spend on care fees to £72,000, 56 per cent admitted that they didn’t understand the financial implications. 73 per cent of people believed that they would still have to sell their homes to pay for care fees and 17 per cent simply did not know. 39 per cent accepted that if the State paid for their care they would have no real choice of provider although 26 per cent felt this was not the case.

The headline discovery from the report is that the number of people who would deliberately deplete their assets to a level beneath the threshold for State-assisted care fees has almost doubled in the past year. According to the study, 40 per cent of individuals would now manage their finances to ensure that their council foots their cost of care. Partnership estimates that with 150,000 people entering care each year, the implications of these findings could result in a financial burden of £1.58 billion on local authorities in England.

Time to listen

It is encouraging to find that the public has not blindly accepted the Care Act as a solution to the care crisis. Lack of public confidence coupled with the questionable affordability of the funding reforms poses a real headache for the Government. Even if it is implemented successfully, the majority of people believe that the care system will still creak under the pressure. There has been unanimous recognition that the current funding system is not fit for purpose. To replace it with an improved but still inadequate system is where we appear to be heading.

This really is the time to listen to the public and take heed of the alternative and radical solutions that have been suggested by the Commission on the Future of Health and Social Care in England. See page 8 for the In Focus of this report.

Do you agree with Robert? What are your thoughts? Add to the debate in the comments below. Subscription required.

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