I was dreading this week fearing facing a hastily drafted plan to tax low earners to pay for social care. Instead I believe we see a well thought-out proposal that learns from models used elsewhere and provides the best possible route for integrating health and social care without draining NHS resources. At the moment people in England are required to pay for all of their care needs in full, right down to £23,250. Only then will the State provide some support. Despite the huge cost care is often not available and care staff are undervalued, under rewarded and few and far between. The proposed reform from Government promises to sort this out whilst requiring no one to pay more than £86,000 for personal care over their lifetime.
This reform and promise of appropriate social care when needed is to be funded by the 1.25% Levy which will be paid by everyone earning over £9,568 pa including earners over state pension age. For someone earning £24,100 their contribution will be £180 pa. The Levy will also be applied to business owners who receive dividends. This is important because the speculation in the press prior to the statement was that the new money would be an additional National Insurance contribution from working-age people. This would have put the entire burden on working families already faced with high mortgage and rent payments. In fact approximately half of the Levy collected will come from the highest earning 14%. The debate over the coming months may focus on the new levy but what really matters is that this new cash delivers reform and improvements to social care.
In return for paying the Levy the commitment is that the reform of adult social care will offer choice, control and independence to care users, provide an outstanding quality of care and be fair and accessible to all who need it, when they need it. This is badly overdue. The accessibility of care varies enormously as can the quality of care. We know this has resulted in beds in hospitals being used to ‘hold’ patients until a care package can be met and in recent weeks over 100 people were in Treliske unnecessarily waiting for the right support to be put in place. Across Cornwall we have approximately 500 people not receiving the care needs that have been identified as necessary and there will be more who are yet to be assessed.
The Government is to publish draft legislation setting out its adult social care reforms and I shall be looking carefully at how the legislation proposes to support care staff. The Government has committed £500m to ‘provide support in professionalising and developing the workforce’ and ‘improve recruitment and support for our social care workforce’. Much of the challenges faced within social care can be addressed by increasing the value of our care workforce, ensuring pay and pensions are attractive and providing the skills-development and opportunities our care staff deserve.