Editorial Comment: State-sponsored neglect

The Blair years were framed by two major reports on the funding of social care for older people, the first from the Royal Commission on Long Term Care in the late 1990s, the second from Sir Derek Wanless in 2006. Both reached the same conclusion: that it is the state’s duty to guarantee a basic level of care to everyone irrespective of means. Both have been ignored by the government, outside Scotland at least.

Our exclusive survey this week tells a story about the impact on the lives of older people. Nearly three-quarters of local authorities which took part only offer a service to people whose needs are substantial or critical. If someone’s needs are moderate or low, they are frozen out by the majority of councils.

Since someone in “moderate” need is often unable to carry out everyday personal care routines, a decent welfare state such as ours claims to be should provide for them. What we have instead is state-sponsored neglect, largely because the government has fl unked out of a debate on the higher taxes needed to pay for an equitable system of social care.

Wanless was clear that his proposed partnership model of funding would depend on higher taxes, the state guaranteeing everyone a minimum level of care beyond which the cost would be shared with the individual. The big advantage of his solution is that the state guarantee of care would be universal and inclusive. When everybody has a stake, the tax argument is stronger. It’s an argument that the government must make and the autumn comprehensive spending review will be a good place to start.

Related article
Eligibility criteria depriving older people of gain services: thresholds on the rise

Contact the author
 Mark Ivory



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