United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA), a professional body for homecare providers, has released the following comments in response to proposals to set the threshold for state-funded assistance for homecare services to £100,000, including housing equity, as contained in the Conservative Party election manifesto.
A proper definition of the balance of responsibility between the individual and the state for funding social care services is an issue which has been avoided by previous governments. This manifesto proposal, if enacted by a future government, would make the expectations much clearer for individuals and their families.
However, it is not clear how such a policy would relieve pressures on the NHS. It does not appear to provide an incentive for people who would benefit from early intervention, as they may make an active decision to protect their net assets. A system which does not encourage people to remain well and out of hospital inevitably results in them seeking help at the point of rapid deterioration or crisis – which is both bad for the individual and expensive for the NHS.
To reduce the risk of people deferring decisions on meeting their developing care needs, UKHCA continues to urge the next government to consider incentives through the tax system for people who fund their own care and that of family members.
The proposed financial threshold would also need to be coupled with a commitment to fund services provided by the state properly, to address the immediate funding crisis in social care. While welcome in themselves, the Chancellor’s 2017 spring budget announcement of £2 billion additional funding for social care over the next three years, and additional local tax-raising powers for councils, are insufficient to resolve this pressing issue.
With an expectation that more people will need to arrange their own care, the government should also empower social care regulators to assure the quality of all emerging models of home care, including those delivered through on-line platforms and using apparently self-employed workers.
The manifesto confirms the Conservative Party’s intention to publish a social care green paper, should they form the next government. This will be an opportunity to gain consensus across political parties and provide informed contributions from stakeholders, including older and disabled people and their families.
A proposal to introduce a £100,000 financial eligibility threshold for homecare will need careful implementation to avoid unintended consequences, and to achieve cross-party support in order to be an effective long-term solution.