News Opinion

Older people deserve Free Personal Care

George McNamara, Director of Policy and Influencing at Independent Age

It is a given that we all want to live well in later life. So too is ensuring that social care support delivers maximum taxpayer value for money.

Yet, despite huge efficiencies and innovative service reform by local government, cuts of over 7 billion to social care budgets since 2010 and continuous delays to vital reforms jeopardise the quality of life older people face, as well as delivering increasingly diminishing returns to the taxpayer.

One myth that needs to be busted is that introducing a care cap will be a silver bullet solution to social care. This is wrong on a number of counts, not least because the level of care cap being proposed by government will benefit less than 2 in 10 older people, meaning thousands will still have to pay for their own care, as well as delivering poor taxpayer value for money. In addition, it does not guarantee any increase in quality or access to social care. In fact, you are more likely to die than to benefit from the care cap.     

Independent Age, the older people’s charity, is calling for a different way. One that is affordable, popular, simple and affordable. One that can be achieved through the introduction of free personal care for older people.

Introducing free personal care costs a similar amount to the introduction of a care cap. But our own analysis also shows that free personal care will virtually eliminate the risk of catastrophic care costs – unlike the care cap. It was introduced in Scotland in 2002, and has just been extended there to people under 65 who need it. It can be done with the political will.

Free personal care would make care free at the point of use like the NHS. It would also create parity between those living with dementia and other long-term conditions; support people to stay in their home for longer reducing the cost and need for residential care placements; reduce the cost of delayed transfers of care and the need for NHS Continuing Care, and enhance the integration of health and social care.

Those are just some of the benefits to an older person. We know that there are thousands of unsung heroes across the country in the form of family carers, looking after their loved one because it’s the right thing to do. Free personal care eases some of the pressure on family carers and means they’re supported to spend more time and energy providing emotional support.

For those working in adult social care, a policy of free personal care has the potential to stimulate a drive in care quality, workforce skills and development. We know that quality is a concern across the sector, for those who want to provide the best care they can, and also to those older people who depend on it. If we are asking the public to pay through taxation for social care they will demand a better service. The guarantee of free personal care does just this.

People across the country are already on side. Even before Independent Age launched this campaign, our research found 74% of adults in England aged 18-64 want free personal care for all older people, and 69% are willing to contribute more to fund it (YouGov, 2018). We also polled a sample of MPs across England – and of those who responded, nearly three-quarters (74%) of MPs  agreed that free personal care, paid for through a social care contribution, should be provided to those older people who need it (ComRes, 2018).

To find out more about the case for free personal are please visit


Edel Harris





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