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Family’s anger as government’s social care plans delayed for fifth time | UK News



Care providers and families living with the impact of long-term conditions have urged the government to set out its plans for social care after a long-awaited green paper was delayed for a fifth time.

Health secretary Matt Hancock told a Parliamentary select committee that proposals for the long-term reform of care funding, first promised in 2017, would be published by the end of March.

That deadline has now passed and rules governing local elections mean the green paper cannot now be released until after polling day on 2 May at the earliest.

Matt Hancock said he was 'proud' of the country's progress
One option suggested by Mr Hancock is a ‘social care premium’

Sky News understands that the government has no clear timescale for publication beyond that, with Brexit understood to be a significant factor in the delay, eating up the “bandwidth” of senior ministers and advisers.

It is also thought that crucial decisions on the future funding of care, require negotiation between the prime minister, the chancellor and Mr Hancock, have not yet been taken.

Any decision on social care will be both financially onerous and politically highly sensitive.

The green paper is likely to set out options in only the broadest terms, but is still a highly volatile policy area in the current climate.

The Conservatives’ botched proposal at the last election to make anyone with assets of more than £100,000 liable for the full cost of any care at home is credited with having cost Theresa May her majority.

David Cameron pledged in 2015 to cap care costs at £72,000, but it was never implemented because of Treasury concerns over the cost, and the policy was formally abandoned last December.

Currently social care is means-tested, with only people with savings of less than £23,500 eligible for local authority support.

Increasing life-expectancy and the rise in conditions such as dementia have exposed the inequities of this system in comparison to the free care provided by the NHS for those with medical conditions such as cancer.

It has affected people like Trevor Wise, 64, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s six years ago, three years after taking early retirement because the condition was affecting his work.

His wife Christine is his principal carer and took early retirement herself to look after him. The couple have spent almost all of their life savings on his care, and may have to rely on Christine taking her pension early to subsist.

Christine ensures Trevor has an active and engaging program, including regular park runs, walking, horse riding and fitness classes.

Senior citizens relax on Llandudno Promenade on September 8, 2014 in Llandudno, Wales
Increasing life-expectancy and the rise in conditions such as dementia have exposed the inequities of this system

She believes this has helped prolong his good health, but she receives only some local authority benefits, which she thinks equates to 50p for every hour’s care she provides.

“It’s not a social care system, it’s a lottery,” she said.

“It’s a lottery about where you live because of the difference between authorities. It’s a lottery about how information-savvy you are. Can you use the internet? Who do you know, what do you know?

“Because the system doesn’t tell you, it waits for you to go and ask. If you don’t ask you don’t get.

“And it’s a lottery to how much I resilience you’ve got.

“I just think that’s so unfair, we are fortunate in that we have savings to survive financially, and my background as an academic researcher meant I was quite happy to get on the internet.

“But what about people who aren’t in that position? What about once I’m left on my own, what about if I get dementia? Who’s going to do the fighting for me?

“There are a lot of people out there who are sitting at home without someone to do the fighting for them and that can’t be right.”

An ageing population means that more people are certain to need some form of care in future, but every alternative is likely to involve asking people to pay more for care that they may not need.

One option suggested by Mr Hancock is a “social care premium”, which would require over 40s to pay into a compulsory insurance scheme.

There is widespread agreement that the current system does not work, and is failing both those who need care and piling pressure back on the NHS, which is often left to pick up the pieces.

The Local Government Association told Sky News funding cuts had deepened the crisis in social care, and called for clarity as soon as possible.

“It’s getting very close to breaking point,” councillor Ian Hudspeth said.

“Councils do excellent jobs to make sure that we are providing those services but with the reductions – 60% since 2010 in government funding – it’s massive, and local government is really struggling to pay for all the demands people want.

“It is absolutely crucial that we understand what the funding options are, whether that be extra income tax, national insurance tax or some sort of special tax or private insurance.

“If we keep on kicking the can down the road we are not going to address the problem.”

The cost of social care has soared
The Local Government Association say funding cuts have deepened the crisis in social care

The chief executive of the UK’s largest not-for-profit care home provider said uncertainty was preventing the sector from planning for the future.

“I think it’s frustrating and distressing for the people who are caught in the system. It’s frustrating as a provider to not have clarity about the future when you want to develop more services and you know there is a demand,” said Jane Ashworth of Anchor-Hanover.

“There is no voice that doesn’t say the social care system is broken.

“It’s absolutely recognised that the current way of working doesn’t work.

“It is very important that a government – preferably this one – grabs hold of the issue and starts to do some long term thinking.”

In a statement, the Department of Health and Social Care said it would bring forward the green paper as soon as possible.

A spokesperson said: “We have given local authorities access to up to £3.9bn more dedicated funding for adult social care this year, and a further £410m is available for adults and children’s services.

“We will set out our plans to reform the social care system at the earliest opportunity to ensure it is sustainable for the future.”

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