Coronavirus pandemic has delayed reforms to social care system says Hancock

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CRUCIAL plans to reform the country’s crisis-hit social care system have been delayed by coronavirus, the Health Secretary admitted yesterday.

While Matt Hancock acknowledged that a “series of injustices” are embedded in the current social care system, he said he could not give a firm timescale for any changes. The news was greeted with dismay by campaigners. Deborah Alsina MBE, chief executive at the national older people’s charity Independent Age, said: “We agree that social care is a system with ’embedded injustices’. We hear regularly about these through calls to our helpline – from paying vast sums for care to not being able to access quality care in the first place.

“And yet Matt Hancock still was unable to commit to a clear timetable to produce proposals for reforming social care.

“The ongoing pandemic and its impact is not a reason to delay reform – it makes it even more urgent.”

Mr Hancock was speaking to MPs on the Health and Social Care committee.

Asked when the long-term funding settlement for social care and Government plans for reform would be announced, he said: “We made manifesto commitments and we were doing a huge amount of work on this. Obviously the coronavirus crisis delayed that work.”

The committee was told that prior to the outbreak social care faced a funding gap of about £6.4billion by 2024-25.

Asked for his department’s estimate of how much money needs to be invested in social care, Mr Hancock said the figures have not “fully landed” yet.

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Everything from help in a pensioner’s home to round-the-clock help in a care home or nursing home. Other vulnerable people also qualify.

In England, everyone with more than £23,250 has to pay for support. Below that, they contribute to the cost after means-testing.

The £23,250 threshold also includes the value of their property, unless they have a spouse who will continue living there.

Cash-strapped local authorities are struggling with people living longer and rising care costs amid shrinking budgets.

The sector is already close to collapse, with the number of people needing care rising.

Comment by Caroline Abrahams

Yesterday we heard Health Secretary Matt Hancock restate the need to find a long-term solution for the limping social care system.

He also commented on the injustices within the system as well as the growing pressures, as the virus continues to devastate lives.

He said by 2025 the numbers of people needing social care were expected to rise from 730,000 to 820,000.

That sounds a lot and it is. But really it’s an underestimation because it doesn’t take into account the additional 1.5 million people with some level of unmet need.

Social care was on life support well before the pandemic and in desperate need of refinancing and reform. Six months later the red warning lights are flashing brighter than ever.

The fact that Mr Hancock told us not to expect any real progress until the Spending Review is concluded is not altogether surprising, but it is the latest of many examples of the Government “kicking the can down the road”. Whenever we ask when it will act on care the answer always seems to be: “Soon, but not yet”.

Many older people warmly welcomed the Prime Minister’s commitment to “fix social care” when he took office and are looking to him to follow through and show he means it.

While our care system remains as it is our older population is stuck with a clapped-out set of services that other countries like Germany abandoned years ago.

During the pandemic many of our care staff have been incredibly noble and committed.

They deserve a better system to work within and better pay and conditions.

And our older population deserve a lot better, too.

Caroline Abrahams is the Director of Age UK

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Comment by Caroline Abrahams

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