We know that the care sector will soon reach crisis point with the LGA estimating a funding gap of £3.6 billion by 2025.
We also know that social care leaders, in local authorities and elsewhere, are facing the limitations and imperatives of the here and now. Managing budgets from one month to the next and rationing services is a function of rising demand and austerity and one that, if we continue as we are, is not going to change.
The current national debate about adult social care is in a poor place, and the recent Budget announcements were no exception. The £650 million in additional funding may provide a year’s relief but will not help address the longer term issues. A grown-up debate about funding alternatives and tax increases for social care continues to be avoided, but this attitude needs to change.
Our recent analysis with Independent Age shows that there are no easy answers, with no single funding solution delivering the level of reform that the sector will need in ten years’ time.
Funding options, such as increasing business rates or council tax, fall short of addressing the social care funding gap. This means that taxes at a national level need to be considered if we are to ever have a hope of managing the increasing levels of demand.
We found that if all rates of income tax were raised by just 1% it would generate an extra £6.14 billion in 2020/21 or, if raised by 2.11%, would be able to provide free personal care for all in 2030/31. Opinions vary about whether we will see a Green Paper on social care at all, but if we do, it is unlikely to be bold enough around funding issues.
But waiting for a government that is tied up with Brexit for the foreseeable future is not a good plan. The task of creating a new social care system falls to people within the system – commissioners and providers, people with lived experience, leaders and change agents. The basic system of funding and delivering care hasn’t changed much in 70 years, and is in urgent need of reform.
That is why we have started our ‘A Caring Society’ programme. Our founding belief is that a caring society can be built by confident local leaders in the system, with government acting only to enable. Drawing on insight from all aspects of the care system – local government, social housing providers, private care providers, investors, charities and influencers – we want care to be thought of as much more than a formal service provided to people that meet a certain criteria. Care should be about how a society works together to support people in need.
We believe that three big things need to happen to create ‘A Caring Society’.
- Reclaiming the meaning of care: Care isn’t just a service but a way in which we can exercise kindness and compassion. If we want to change the system, we have to rethink what we mean by care, involving all the people with a stake in that meaning.
- A new role for the state: Local organisations commissioning and providing care are not often working well together. We have to try to move the council’s role from commissioning to enabling collaboration. If great care is a system, then we need the system to work better.
- Innovation that really works: There is considerable innovation in care, but it often gets stuck, with very few initiatives managing to successfully influence the system. We need to find new ways to scale up new models and technologies.
Social care is something that will affect us all at some stage in our lives and we all want to believe that we are part of a caring society. One where, no matter whether we are disabled, frail or in need of care, there are systems in place to help us. But very few of us understand how the social care system works and what we can expect.
The current crisis is not just about money. We need to elevate the care system from being viewed as an extension of the NHS, to one that is valued as a truly critical element of the society we live in. Working together, sharing ideas and addressing these key issues collectively will be a vital first step to creating a more caring society.