Coalition launches national debate on future of long-term care funding

One in five of the UK population will develop long-term care needs, yet the care system is still not fit for future generations of pensioners, says a new 15-strong coalition, which will launch a major public debate on the future of long- term care funding today (26 April).

The Caring Choices coalition, run by the King's Fund, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Help the Aged and Age Concern and supported by 11 other key organisations spanning health and care, have joined forces to host seven regional debates across the UK, which aim to address the current failings of care system and to look at potential solutions. Views of the public, older people and their carers will be sought to determine how we reach a fairer system of paying for care in the future.

Key themes, based on evidence from Sir Derek Wanless's review of social care funding for older people for the King's Fund, and Joseph Rowntree Foundation's long-term care funding programme, will be explored with an informed audience at each event. Those invited to each event include: older people and their carers; care providers, commissioners and staff; and local and national policy-makers. Each event will include a panel discussion with high-profile speakers, and participants will take part in an interactive voting session – the results of which will be used to encourage wider public and political debate.

Each event will focus on three key questions:

  1. Who should pay for personal care? Participants will be asked to discuss what elements of care – in what proportion – should be covered by the state and by individuals.
  2. How do we encourage people to contribute to care costs? Participants will discuss characteristics of schemes that might help people to contribute and what makes a system feel safe and fair.
  3. How do we support the provision of informal care? How, as a society, should we value and encourage informal care in the future and what incentives could be offered?

Niall Dickson, King's Fund Chief Executive said:

'The review carried out by Sir Derek Wanless for the King's Fund demonstrated that the current long-term care system is not sustainable for the future. A proper debate about roles, responsibilities and risks – and the trade-offs we are prepared to make as individuals and as a society – should make a big contribution to policy development in this important area.'

Julia Unwin, Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said:

'We need a 'Plan B' for social care funding – the current system is neither fair, clear or sustainable and the time has come to devise a system that is fit for the 21st century.

'The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has been concerned about this social policy issue for many years and the strength of concern is borne out by the fact that 15 key organisations are supporting this initiative.'

Mervyn Kohler, Head of Public Affairs at Help the Aged, said:

'Many people get a nasty surprise when they develop care needs and discover that they may have to pick up the bill. Getting the balance between what is fair for individuals to contribute and what the state should pay is the first step towards creating fairer system all round. The government alone can’t make this decision, we all must have a say.'

Gordon Lishman, Director General of Age Concern, said:

'At present, relatively few people know at first hand the full extent of the chaos within long-term care. As our population ages, more and more people will be confronted with this uncomfortable truth. And you can see the anxiety already. Now is the time to discuss honestly and openly about making the system work for all.'

The debates begin amid current speculation around the Comprehensive Spending Review, due to be released in the Autumn. Despite calls from leading campaign groups, there is concern that social care will not get a real term cash increase.

A new interactive website, www.caringchoices.org.uk, goes live on 26 April 2007, and provides a way for older people, their carers and those who work in the field of social care for older people to get involved in the debate.

Find out more about Caring Choices

Notes to editors: 

For further information about the ‘Caring Choices’ coalition, or to request an interview with a spokesperson, contact one of the following press offices:

  • Help the Aged: Sophie Davison, tel. 020 7843 1561
  • Age Concern: Sam Heath, tel. 020 8765 7512
  • King’s Fund: Daniel Reynolds, tel. 020 7307 2581
  • Joseph Rowntree Foundation: Nasreen Memon, tel. 020 7278 9665 

The Caring Choices coalition comprises:

King’s Fund
Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Help the Aged
Age Concern
ADASS
Association of British Insurers
Alzheimer’s Society
Carers UK
Counsel and Care
English Community Care Association
Independent Age
Local Government Association
Royal College of Nursing
Social Care Institute for Excellence
The NHS Confederation

The Caring Choices events taking place during 2007 will be at following dates and locations:

  • 1st event: Thursday 26 April in Manchester
  • 2nd event: Friday 25 May in Birmingham
  • 3rd event: Friday 22 June in Bristol
  • 4th event: Wednesday 4 July in Edinburgh
  • 5th event: Thursday 13 September in Leeds
  • 6th event: Tuesday 23 October in Taunton
  • 7th event: Wednesday 14 November in London

These events are run on an invite-only basis. Those who work in health and social care and would like to attend, should contact Jo O’Rourke, event organiser, tel. 01273 326 165.