With austerity causing a crisis in local authority care provision, the threat of dementia tax, and Brexit, Dr Jane Gilbert talks about why the care system in the UK isn't working.
The big problemMany thousands of vulnerable elderly and disabled people in the UK are totally reliant on care support. Research shows that the majority of elderly people would prefer to be cared for in their own homes for as long as possible. Professional home carers can allow those with dementia, disease or disability to continue to live safely at home, but the ageing population, together with financial constraints and cuts have put the system under considerable strain.
A crisis in care?Currently, home care is provided by both local authorities and home care agencies. They are funded both privately and from the public pocket, but the evidence suggests that most people depend at least in part on money from the government. The financial crisis and ongoing austerity measures have meant that council funding for adult social care has fallen by more than 10% on average since 2010, and in some areas budgets have been slashed by a frightening 30%. These cuts, combined with rising employment costs due to the introduction of the national living wage have made it increasingly difficult for councils to provide an effective service and balance the books.
The dementia taxAt the moment, social care is means tested. Older people with assets of more than £23,250 are obliged to contribute to the cost of their care. Currently, if the care is received in their own home (rather than in a care home) the value of their property does not form part of these calculations. The Tory manifesto’s highly controversial new social care policy, set to reverse this exemption, meaning that the cost of care would be reclaimed by selling the family home after the individual’s death. The proposal sent shockwaves through the country and has since been axed, but we shouldn’t be complacent. Care is expensive and governments of all hues may seek ways to minimise the bill in the future.
Find out more in Dementia Tax Explained.