Gordon Brown today admitted the current adult social care system needs “fundamental reform” as he launched the long-awaited consultation on future funding.
At an event hosted by think-tank the King’s Fund, the prime minister said he wanted to see an end to the fears of people with moderate savings that they might have to sell their homes to pay for long-term care.
His comments came as the Department of Health admitted there could be a £6bn funding gap for social care in England in 20 years’ time, based on projected future demand.
It today launched a six-month consultation on care funding which will culminate in a green paper, promised last autumn.
Fundamental reform needed
Brown pointed to recent policy changes designed to improve care and support, such as personalised budgets and a £120m programme for domestic adjustments in people’s homes. “Despite all of these changes, our current system still requires fundamental reform to provide a high quality service for all who need it,” he said.
Brown said organisations had been looking at the idea of insurance, as opposed to general taxation, to fund long-term care, but there was “no country in the world where such a system was fully formed”.
He said the future care model would be based on early intervention and designed to reduce the number of admissions into care homes.
“One of our aims will be keeping individuals in their homes as long as possible and making institutional care not the first but a later resort.”
Brown said the government would also examine ways of building “better collaboration” between the NHS and social care.
Means-testing “penalises” savers
Care services minister Ivan Lewis added that the current means-tested system sometimes penalised those who “scrimped and saved and played by the rules”.
Ministers promised to listen to professionals and the public before forming a blueprint to deliver the transformation of adult social care.
Health secretary Alan Johnson said the government planned to “build a consensus about the funding of the care and support system – one of the major questions of our time”.
Officials will visit communities across England over the next six months to ask people how the responsibilty for funding should be shared between families, individuals and the state.
Johnson said the government would take the views of the public and the sector into account in the long-awaited green paper, which is now due to be published next year.
Social care costs will double by 2026
He said the ageing population meant expenditure would double in the next 20 years under the current system from £12.7bn in 2007 to £24.1bn in 2026.
Johnson acknowledged the sector had “for a very long time” been seeking a wide-ranging debate on how to replace a system that was unsustainable and, in some cases, unfair.
In addition to addressing the funding issue, the consulation will cover the questions of how best to promote independent living, and how to provide a high quality care and support service that should be targeted at those people most in need.
Johnson said: “There is no option of a quick fix. Radical change is needed to bring together the range of activities, services and relationships that underpin care and support so that people are clear about what they are entitled to and how and where they can get it.”
The government also announced £31 million to pilot innovative technology such as telecare for people with complex health and social care needs.
Charities: “Golden opportunity” to fix system
The Right care Right deal coalition – including Carers UK, Counsel and Care and Help the Aged – warned that social care was “in crisis” and said the green paper presented a “golden opportunity” to fix the system.
Paul Cann, director of policy at Help the Aged said: “It’s vital that the government step up and recognise that this is a spending priority. They must commit to transforming the system into one that is easy to understand, fair and sustainable , but above all which helps people live the life that they choose.
Stephen Burke, chief executive of Counsel and Care, called on the government to deal with the “postcode lottery” of care.
“Any new care system must deal with this lottery; it must be simpler and fairer; consistent and transparent so it’s clear what you can get and what you have to pay wherever you live; and flexible and personal giving people control,” he said.
Community Care is running conferences on tackling the eligibility crisis in adult services on 24 June and the adult social care green paper on 8 July.