A recent letter from the County Council Network (CCN) – a constituent of the Local Government Association (LGA) – has revealed that those paying for care themselves (possessing assets below £23,500 is the current threshold for state assistance) pay a surplus of 50% on their care home costs. This is an absolutely raw deal, and is the result of a social care market that has been skewed by unacceptably low levels of central government funding.
In the CNN’s letter, Council chiefs illustrate how unsustainably low investment in the social care sector has passed fees on to vulnerable adults whose assets are above the threshold. Previous research from Prestige Nursing + Care has illustrated that councils’ ability to provide their residents with adequate social care is set to come under further pressure, following the £4.6bn in cuts care budgets have undergone in the last five years.
As a result of this, Councils have opted to work together to ensure that they get the best possible value for their money when it comes to purchasing care. With limited options available to them, this cartel-like approach means that providers have to pass their losses on to self-funding customers to ensure they can maintain standards; the Councils’ findings reveal that the weekly care bill for a self-funder (£754) is 49% above the £511 paid by a local council. This is an unacceptably large disparity.
While there is a pervasive view among some that care providers are profiting at the expense of individuals, nothing could actually be further from the truth. Margins are already alarmingly small, with many providers going under. While care is obviously a significant cost, lowering the fees – even a small amount – that councils and individuals pay would result in the lowering of standards.
The onus is therefore on government to ensure that the social care sector is both adequately and efficiently funded. The problems in the system are already acute enough to warrant increased spending, and with Britain’s population ageing, there is an imperative to increase investment before it’s too late. Furthermore, policymakers should look to the solutions that more cost effective care, such as home care and community care, can provide.