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Politics of Care are on the rise

29 April 2019

We know just how political the issue of social care is, and absolutely should be. Therefore it is no surprise that as we move into local election week in large parts of England, and potential European elections, (and who knows what more the summer will bring) that we see some clear messages from politicians about the position of their party in relation to this key issue. 
Labour announced a restatement of its intentions outlined in the 2017 manifesto, committing to increased funding for care at home, training of care staff and the ‘Transforming Care’ agenda. (Labour’s approach is outlined in a Guardian article found here.) 

In the absence of current government position on social care, whilst we wait for the release of the Green Paper, the Centre for Policy Studies, billed as ‘the home of a new generation of conservative thinking’, has launched a report ‘Fixing the Care Crisis’ authored by Damian Green, MP. Within this paper, Green posits a Universal Care Entitlement and Care Supplement. He aligns this with the pension system, effectively centralising the costs of universal care entitlement (in a model akin to Housing Benefit?), and enabling people to then ‘top up’ their care through a care supplement which he compares to an annuity for a pension. 

The Centre for Policy Studies outlines three options for how the transition period would be paid for – to free up the additional £2.5 billion that the provision of free universal care entitlement would require (a figure they reference as being extrapolated from Scotland’s experience of universal care). These are in decreasing order of preference: 

Taxing the winter fuel allowance
Making wider savings as part of the Spending Review
If necessary, putting an extra 1% on National Insurance for those aged over 50.

In a week full of social care policy focus, there were two other reports that mirrored elements of Green’s call for action. The first of these was Independent Age report who analyse a wide range of options of how to meet the call for ‘the introduction of free personal care for older people’.  
Alongside this, we had the publication from the Select Committee of its investigation into Intergenerational Fairness – billed as ‘Tackling ‘Intergenerational Unfairness’. 

The report was the result of a year-long investigation and received widespread commentary – much of which unfortunately played to the gallery for those wishing to characterise a ‘young vs old’ division in communities.  

Interestingly, from a policy alignment perspective, however, that the report looked to areas such as the provision of free TV licenses and Bus passes and others as cash that could and should be liberated by government to address a wider range of intergenerational policy agendas. 

Clearly these age related benefits are seen as the ‘low hanging fruit’ for a range of politicians, and move us away from the ‘triple lock’ politics of 2010. However the report landed with the media; the detail of the publication was responded to by the Centre for Ageing Better which rightly highlighted some of the more focussed areas of the report looking at calls for greater investment in learning and development across the ages, more appropriate housing and more. 

In addition, members will be very interested in the detail of the recommendations – including an important one for Extra Care Housing stating ‘The Government should issue guidance clarifying that extra care retirement communities fall within the C2 use class as they are capable of delivering high levels of care to older people and so should be treated as the same planning use class as care homes.’ 

As they say, we live in interesting times. 

Social care is high on the agenda, as it should be, and I will look forward to discussing all these issues when I meet with colleagues from across the UK and Ireland and later in the week at the ADASS Spring Seminar. Many of these reports call for a fundamental shift in the way that providers and commissioners work – and will contribution to the shape of the social care we will all receive in the future. 

Perhaps the waiting game is nearly over…..

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