I have argued in this blog for years that the only way to release significantnt resources to pay for good quality social for older people is to unlock the equity many older people have in their houses and then expect all those who can, to pay for there own care.
The problem is that there are many barriers that stop this from happening and it will probably take a crisis to clear them away.
the problem is :-
- When the NHS was established nobody expected longevity to increase as much as it has, nor did they anticipate the epidemic of dementia in these extended years.
- Older people and their relatives have been led to believe that all health care should be free, even though this has never actually been the case.
- Dementia, in particular, has always been an area of deliberate obfuscation, because firstly of the difficulty of diagnosing it; secondly, the relatively high cost of lengthy stays in residential care; and thirdly, the perhaps the understandable reluctance of the NHS to accept it as a health problem, which has passed the responsibility for caring for people with dementia to either their relatives, often an elderly spouse, or handed it over to Social Services.
The fact that the older elderly population will double in the next 10 years means that ” the crisis” is upon us now, as the pressures of these issues escalate. These changing demographics demand an answer, even if compassion does does not.
The Government was already slowly edging toward the issues with a promised report in the autumn. Now this has been overtaken by the forthcoming snap general election and a hastily cobbled together manifesto. In an opportunistic, bold and maybe foolhardy move, Theresa May included a proposal to address the social care funding shortfall by shifting more of the burden on to older people, by including the value of their house in the means test evaluation, but allowing them to defer the payment in their lifetime.
I believe this is the right thing to do, but the hasty announcement has mas made its implementation doubly difficult. Opposition parties have cynically seized on the idea and deemed it a death tax. The media have not helped with shallow analysis and simplistic headlines. Leaving the population as a whole ill-informed and ill disposed to the proposal.
Not a great start to reforming social care !