Age UK response to Social Care White Paper

On Wednesday, the Government finally published its Social Care White Paper.

Source : Age UK
Published on 11 July 2012 01:00 PM

 

On Wednesday, the Government finally published its Social Care White Paper.

Age UK warmly welcomes the Government’s plans to reform the care system, although we are disappointed the Government did not set out how the changes will be funded and delayed the decision to the Comprehensive Spending Review expected next year.

If funding is forthcoming, today’s announcement is welcome news for the millions of care users now and in the future, and is something Age UK has been working towards for many years, most recently through our Care in Crisis campaign.

The main proposals for reform are listed below:

Improving access to social care

Introduction of a national eligibility criteria ensuring minimum level of support and continuity of care, portable between local authority areas.

However, it is not yet clear at what level it will be set – Age UK has campaigned for ‘moderate’.

Improving Quality

  • New national information website on care and support
  • New code of conduct and minimum training standards for care workers and social workers
  • Legal entitlement to personal budgets, and a commitment to improving independent advice on using personal budgets
  • The role of NICE expanded to include social care, who will produce quality standards
  • New safeguarding legislation to ensure all agencies involved in a person’s care are working together to prevent abuse

Support for carers

A strengthened legal framework means more rights for carers to receive both an assessment and also an additional ‘entitlement to support’ to maintain their own health.

Better integration of health and social care

  • Additional funding to support the integration of health and social care
  • Duties on new health structures and local authorities to promote the integration of health and social care services

Sustainable Funding

  • In principle commitment to the Dilnot Commission’s recommendations, namely a cap on the costs of residential care, and an extension to the means-testing threshold, which will allow people to plan and prepare for their care costs in later life. However, the Government has not proposed at what level either will be set, and
  • Introduction of a universal deferred payment scheme, so that people will not have to sell their homes to pay for care while they are alive.

Age UK will be producing a more detailed briefing with more information about the detail of the White Paper, Draft Bill and funding progress paper later this week.

There is still a long way to go and we need to keep up the pressure to make sure the Government’s vision for a better care service becomes a reality and this can only be done with a firm commitment about how we pay for it.

Although we welcome today’s announcement, without a strong commitment and clear timetable we can’t be sure this announcement will live up to its promise.

Today’s announcement represents a substantial achievement for everyone that has taken part in the campaign, and the impact of these proposals will be seen for years to come. The Care in Crisis campaign will continue throughout the autumn to ensure the Government provides the necessary funding to make these reforms a reality.

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK said: ‘The policy proposals in the White Paper and the legal reforms are important and we warmly welcome them. Together, they have the potential to significantly improve the quality of care available and help create a care system that is fairer and more straightforward for older people and their families.

‘But this potential cannot be fully realised until the Government faces up to and resolves the crucial issue of funding. More than a year on from the publication of the Dilnot Commission’s report, we are left asking just how strong the Government’s commitment is to implementing his two key recommendations: to raise the means-test threshold and to set a cap on costs. The Government’s commitment to the Dilnot approach in principle is an important milestone, but without a clear plan for how they intend to deliver on that commitment there are no guarantees the Dilnot recommendations will be put into action soon, or possibly even at all.

‘In the end, adequate funding will make or break the Government’s proposals, so we will be watching closely to make sure social care remains firmly on the Government’s agenda and is not marginalised during a comprehensive spending review that everyone expects to be tight.

‘Sadly, the delay on a funding decision will undoubtedly have a devastating impact on those currently in need of care support today. There are already nearly 800,000 older people struggling to cope alone and that number is set to rise to one million by 2015.  Many older people rely on social care to live with dignity and respect, and it is unfair to expect them to wait.  Care reform and funding reform must go hand in hand and cross party political consensus must be achieved.’

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