The King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson said: 'Hidden away in yesterday's Comprehensive Spending Review is a major government announcement on the future of long-term care for millions of older and disabled people and their carers.
'The government has signalled major reform of social care and the current means-tested system, which for many years has caused distress and misery to older people and their families. In its place, the government has indicated that it favours a universal entitlement together with a co-payment and progressive elements, and will now consult the public. This is an historic move and is to be welcomed and commended.
'Yesterday's move represents a bold first step at addressing one of the greatest social challenges facing the government. For too long this has been a no-go area for politicians since the Royal Commission on Long Term Care reported in 1999.
'The government must now seize this opportunity to achieve a political consensus on how we fund long term care and deliver a fairer system for future generations.'
Niall Dickson added: 'However, despite it being a relatively tight spending round, the financial settlement for social care over the next three years is disappointing. Given that the social care system is already struggling, with local authorities raising their eligibility criteria and only focusing on those people with the most severe needs, it is disappointing that more money hasn't been provided to prop up the existing system until the reforms outlined today come through.'
The announcement follows the publication in March 2006 of Sir Derek Wanless's report on the future of social care funding for The King's Fund, Securing Good Care for Older People: Taking a long-term view. The report called for sharp increases in funding to meet the demand for high quality care over the next two decades, and for the means-tested funding system to be scrapped and replaced with a partnership model.
It also follows the work of the Caring Choices partnership – a coalition of 15 organisations, led by the King's Fund, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Help the Aged and Age Concern England, who have joined forces over the past year to raise awareness of the challenges facing the future of long-term care funding.
Niall Dickson added: 'There is widespread agreement that the current means-tested system is unsustainable and that we need to find new ways of paying to support vulnerable older people.
'Our failure to support frail and vulnerable older people has been one of the unrecognised scandals of our time. There are more very old people than ever and yet fewer are receiving the social care support they need. In many areas now only those in the most urgent need receive any help whatsoever.
'That's why we are delighted that the government is going to make this issue a priority and we look forward to seeing the detail of the Green Paper.'
Notes to editors:
- For further information or interviews, please contact the King’s Fund media and public relations office on 020 7307 2585, 020 7307 2632 or 020 7307 2581. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.
- The King’s Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. We carry out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on our own, in partnerships, and through funding. We are a major resource to people working in health and social care, offering leadership development programmes; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.
- The Pre-Budget Report and Comprehensive Spending Review stated “The Government believes that there are real opportunities for reform within a system that shares the cost between the individual and the state and that provides both universal and progressive elements. Greater overall benefits for individuals may also be achieved by reviewing the state systems that people are able to access for such support. There is an opportunity to replace the current systems with a new offer focusing on service users and placing the individual at the centre of these care and support systems, giving them more personal choice and control and directing state resources to where they can have the greatest impact on wellbeing.” (Box 6.2, p100)