The Government’s social care plan- a gamble with little public involvement
It seems a lifetime ago that Boris Johnson stood outside Downing Street to give his first speech as Prime Minister and announced that he had a plan for social care. Almost two years later, we have finally seen it, and to those working in the sector it has proved largely underwhelming. It promises an increase in funding for social care, funded by an increase in National Insurance rates, which has caused some controversy as these are largely paid by younger working people who do not need social care quite so much. Although the Government has extended the increase in NI rates to working pensioners (who do not usually pay NI), this has done little to ameliorate concerns.
The plan itself is found in the document “Build back better. Our plan for health and social care” which outlines the need for a social care system and promises to introduce a cap on personal care costs, provide financial assistance to those without substantial assets, deliver wider support for the social care system and integrate health and social care. It also promises further work and a full White Paper on social care reform, as well as a consultation starting this October on adult social care charging reforms.
Reform of social care has been an issue that successive governments have put off for decades, but with an increasingly aging population, it’s one that has rapidly been coming to a head. There are however a lot of mysteries about the Government’s plan- namely how has the sector been involved in its genesis? The plan has not been universally well received with social care organisations warning that because the new levy is also (for the first three years) due to be funding NHS backlogs from the pandemic, in reality it amounts to little new money. In addition to their concerns, economic organisations such as the IFS have highlighted the financial inadequacies of the measures.
The other question that should be asked is about the lack of consultation on the NI-hike. Leaked last week, officially announced on Tuesday and enabling legislation pushed through in one day on Wednesday, there has been no consultation with the public, and little opportunity for Parliamentarians to properly scrutinise and debate the change. Although a 1.25% increase (which in fact amounts to a 2.5% increase for most people) doesn’t sound much, with a young population already struggling with rising prices, the impossibilities of getting onto the housing ladder and dealing with the constant disdain of their elders telling them how easy they have it, it’s no wonder it’s proved controversial and has triggered anger.
The PM has made a gamble, and it remains to be seen if it will pay off. This paper of course does not represent the substance of the promised reforms, but merely the method of funding them, and the promised White Paper should be an interesting read to see if the ambition of the proposals meets the promises. With the Health and Care Bill making its way through Parliament, the structure for integration of the health and social care systems should be soon in place- though it might prove interesting to see how many changes are required to that plan to fit the nascent social care reforms in.