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What the election manifestoes say on social care

Blog post 30 May 2017

Call me cynical if you wish, but somewhere between the deceit, lies and impossible electioneering dreams lies the truth of what social care will be like under a newly elected government. Sadly, I don't possess a crystal ball.

Making a choice for the good of both the care sector and those who need it is never going to be easy without the ‘whole truth’ being available – a commodity as scare as hen’s teeth when it comes to the lessons on electioneering history. Navigating that process for General Election Day requires careful examination of what party ‘promises’ are out there. 

West Midlands Care Association is non-political and would work with any party to advance the quality of care. It’s therefore important I make it clear in this blog post that is not part of an electioneering agenda.

Of the issues that have sparked interest from all political persuasions, Theresa May’s social care plans certainly seems to have ignited the blue touch paper with even the Conservatives now bickering among themselves over the implications.

Interesting, but for me hugely frustrating as it appears the immediate issues of the care crisis are now – once again – on the back burner.

Let’s have a look at what thee three major political parties have to say about their vision of social care.

It is, I believe, as one national newspaper said “the unfinished business through successive governments for at least the past 20 years.”

Both the Liberal Democrat and Labour manifestos describe social care as being in a state of crisis.

Well, that’s certainly true and with a £2bn predicted shortfall this year alone, who could possible argue is wasn’t.

The Lib Dems pledge to bring in an immediate 1 penny income tax rise ‘to rescue the NHS and social care.’

Tim Farron says money from income tax rise will go into ring-fenced £6bn annual budget to address chronic underfunding (personally, I think the budget prediction is way too low).

In the longer term, however, this would be replaced with a health and care tax.

This would bring spending on both services together in a collective budget, and be made clear on people’s pay slips what was being spent on those services.

The party said it would seek to establish a cross-party health and care convention to review longer term sustainability of the health and care finances while setting up an office of health and care funding, similar to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

The manifesto also pledges to “finish the job of implementing a cap on the cost of social care.”

So what about Labour? The party manifesto commits to “lay the foundations of National Care Service for England. It also says there would be a limit on lifetime contributions to care costs.

Labour adds it will “seek consensus on a cross-party basis about how it should be funded, with options including wealth taxes, an employer care contribution or a new social care levy”.

The Guardian notes . . . “Despite the considerable length of the Labour manifesto (128 pages, compared with 100 for the Lib Dems and 88 for the Conservatives), it has little to say on the detail of the different options.”

The Conservative political manifesto presents the costs of ageing and care as currently all “borne by working people through their taxes”.

The Conservative plans for long-term care, which talk only of elderly care and have nothing to say about others who may need care. Clearly there are West Midlands Care Association members whose care reaches younger adults with a whole raft of conditions.

Mrs May’s party states the system of care “is not working”.

True!

“Where others have failed to lead, we will act,” the manifesto declares.

The social care changes proposed are that the value of someone's property would be included in the means test for receiving free care in their own home – currently only their income and savings are taken into account.

People will be able to defer paying for their care until after their death.

Those in residential care – whose property is already taken into account in the means test – can already do this.

There will also be an increase in the amount of wealth someone can have – savings and the value of their home – from the current £23,250 to £100,000 - before they lose the right to free care.

That means that however much is spent on social care, it becomes free once someone is down to their last £100,000.

In a nutshell the manifesto’s proposal is to raise the means-test threshold to £100,000.

Critically, however, the manifesto makes no mention of a cap on what a person may have to pay for care before this threshold and for the first time ever  the value of a person’s home will also be included when means-testing for support in the home.

People will be able to remain in their homes, but will be forced to release equity or defer payment until the house can be sold after their death.

Well, that’s it . . . and I still have a load of unanswered questions. The disputed boundaries between NHS and social care funding do not appear to be addressed in any detail and that must be an essential trench of any policy that’s future-proof.

Complex, socially and economically challenging, no doubt much more will be said before I cast my vote.