Government plans to provide free personal care at home for users with high needs have “thrown into reverse” its efforts to persuade the public of the need to contribute to their future care costs.
That was the warning from Richard Humphries, senior fellow in social care at the King’s Fund, who said the current Personal Care at Home Bill had created an impression that free care could be provided “without extra cost, difficult choices or contentious trade-offs”.
Uncritical reliance on tax
However, he want further in saying that the legislation had reversed the Department of Health’s efforts to “wean [the public] off an uncritical reliance on general taxation as the solution to all funding problems”.
The former DH civil servant and director of social services said: “[The DH] carried out two extensive public engagement exercises to embed the idea that, one way or another, we have to dig deeper into our pockets to pay for an ageing society.”
However, he warned “The unexpected promise of free care at home, accompanied by a sudden conjuring up of £670m from central cuts and council efficiencies – without any apparent, real impact on existing priorities or reducing services – sends an entirely contrary message.”
He added: “This is not not an honest or respectful foundation on which to build the radical reform of care funding; we can’t go on like this.”
His trenchant criticism of the bill follows its successful passage through the House of Lords this week. However, Labour peer told Community Care yesterday that the bill faced a “rough ride” in the House of Lords.
Humphries said three question marks hung over the policy: whether it would be adequately funded; whether it would make the system more unfair for those whose needs fell just short of “highest” or could not be met at home; and whether, by providing free care for about 270,000 people, it would jeopardise wider reform for the 1.8m people who rely on care and support services in England.