The Social Care Crisis Is Bigger Than We Think
The current social care system is plagued by poor standards and low funding. But even if we fix these problems, there’s another lurking ahead.
The British social care system needs reform.
On that, almost everyone can agree. There is simply not enough funding in the system, nor good enough provision, nor sufficient staffing levels. Ultimately, though, most problems in the sector flow from funding, and, in particular, the mechanisms through which the social care sector is funded.
But where the NHS has a simple funding mechanism, and is thus a simple institution with basic flaws, we might shed the most light on the social care system by recognising that it is not really a ‘system’ at all. Funding for social care is a mess, so social care is a mess.
The addendum of ‘social care’ to ‘Department of Health’ was perhaps the most meaningless departmental reshuffle any Prime Minister has ever conducted. Insofar as the funding for a system flowing through a ministry constitutes ‘control’ over the system for that ministry, social care remains under the control of the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government. In reality, though, a modern Prime Minister does not let a low-ranking minister in a peripheral government ministry control such a politically-charged area of public policy. So, it’s a complete mess right from the top of the tree.
The funding for adult social care comes first from those needing care effectively selling off their houses, and second from local government providing the service at public expense for those without saleable assets above £23,250. But when costs for care homes, the most significant expense in the £23bn social care budget, can soar to £40,000 per year, a significant chunk of the total cost of social care provision is paid by the government.
Social care provided in the community, with carers going into people’s homes to provide care that allows hundreds of thousands to remain independent, is a relatively small part of the budget, and not necessarily because it doesn’t cost as much as residential social care. Simply, there is not enough money in the local government coffers to pay for community…