Social Care Funding and Political Miscalculation

Health and social care funding is now well and truly a part of the political geography of the UK. As far as England is concerned, it has for years been a blot on the landscape that has undergone several attempts (actual and proposed) to hide it from view. Today, we have now discovered that the blot is built on a fault line and the plates have move. The tremors have been felt in Downing Street: the damage is serious.

During the week beginning 15 May 2917, the Conservatives published their election manifesto. Their plans for social care funding in England proved monumentally — and perhaps — disastrously controversial. There are very few people who would disagree that something has to be done about social care funding. The question, though: is what should be done?

Social care needs more money; but where is that money to come from. The options are few. First, money can be taken from another area of public spending. That’s not going to go down too well with the people in the departments affected.

Second, money can be raised from the public. The thorny point here is who should pay. At the moment, if you require social care you get no financial help if you have savings above £23, 500. Below this figure, you receive some financial help. If more money is to be raised, should it fall upon everyone to contribute even though not everyone will need social care during their lifetime. Alternatively, should those who need social care be required to pay for it.

At this election, the big division between the parties on the question of social care funding saw the Liberal Democrats and Labour in favour of distributing the burden more widely, and the Conservatives placing the burden on those who need social care. With the Tory proposals, if you required domiciliary care, your home would form part of your savings for means test purpose; whereas at the moment it is excluded. I should submit, that the Tory manifesto proposal for funding social care was electorally catastrophic for them. Teresa May’s claim a few days later that there would be a cap on the social care fees you would have to pay — a cap not mentioned in the manifesto — just made things worse.

Labour called the Tory proposals a dementia tax. The grey vote was alienated. At the 2015 election, 47% of people aged 65 and over and 46% of property owners voted Tory. I may be wide of the mark here, but I would not be surprised if the children of property owning parents voted to keep their inheritance. On Monday May 15 2016, a poll of polls but the Tories 17 percentage points ahead of Labour. Today, with the election results all but in, the Conservatives are the largest party in Parliament but have lost their majority.

With a hung Parliament, it is questionable whether social care is going to be high on any coalition government’s agenda. On the other hand, perhaps there now exists an opportunity deal with the issue of social care funding: it is not going away, that is certain.

Garry Costain is the Managing Director of Caremark Thanet, a domiciliary care provider with offices in Margate, Kent. Caremark Thanet provides home care services throughout the Isle of Thanet. Garry can be contacted on 01843 235910 or email garry.costain@caremark.co.uk. You can also visit Caremark Thanet’s website at www.caremark.co.uk/thanet.