Social care funding crisis: no end in sightConfusion over social care funding

12 July 2012

Scoial care

Which? is concerned about the quality of social care and confusion people face over future funding, as the government publishes its care and support proposals.

The government has made no formal commitment about how it will improve the funding of the social care system in the future, despite agreeing some general principles proposed by an independent commission (the Dilnot Commission).

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: 'Successive governments have for too long ducked the crucial decisions on social care funding, while people continue to suffer unacceptable levels of care.

'The health secretary must now end the uncertainty and confusion people face about their future care provision and the costs they will face, so that they can adequately prepare.'

Recent Which? research into the quality of care provided to older people in their own homes found shocking examples of poor care, with people's safety compromised in some cases by an overstretched and underfunded system. 

You can read more about long-term care options in our guide including advice about funding and assessments.

Mixed proposals about social care

The Dilnot Commission’s proposals included capping the total amount that people will have to pay for their care and extending the means test but the government hasn't agreed to the detail of how they would do this.

Which? welcomes some proposals also announced in the white paper, such as offering more carers their own assessment, and a new national information website to provide information on care and support. Other welcome proposals include introducing a national minimum eligibility threshold to ensure greater consistency in who gets social care.

But other proposals raise concerns: for example, new provisions for deferred payments - whereby the local authority pays the adult’s care charges on condition that they are repaid at a later date - allow local authorities to charge interest on these arrangements for the first time. We will want assurance that these costs will be set at an appropriate level.

System issues with social care

Underlying the proposals is the issue of how councils commission good quality care in the face of shrinking budgets.

As part of its research into home care earlier this year, Which?  interviewed key stakeholders in the home care system, including commissioning managers, home care managers and careworkers.

Commissioning managers told us of the huge pressure to make savings and the difficulty in not compromising on service delivery. 

Home care managers spoke of tightening margins and the struggle to maintain a quality service, while careworkers described bearing the brunt of increased responsibilities and low pay.

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