An ageing population and care needs: the future?

Social care funding has been a longstanding political issue with reports repeatedly highlighting that funding has declined in recent years despite the increasing demand for care services.

Publication of the Green Paper on social care for adults is awaited and is now expected “in due course”. The Paper is intended to explore how social care is funded and a number of potential policies have been reportedly under consideration for inclusion in the Paper, including a more generous means test, an insurance and contribution model and tax-free withdrawals from pension pots.

A recent suggestion by former Conservative cabinet minister Damian Green as part of a report (Fixing the Care Crisis) published by free market think tank, Centre for Policy Studies, argued for social care modelled on the state pension, with taxpayers funding a flat rate “universal care entitlement” which patients could supplement from their own funds. A 1% national insurance surcharge payment from the over 50s has also been suggested as a “last resort” to ensure a patient’s personal finances are not exhausted by the costs of social care. Moving social care to a national level, rather than remaining the responsibility of individual councils has also been suggested as a solution to the funding issues.

Such instability is an ever increasing concern for both care providers and those who require access to care services.

Yesterday we heard news of the collapse of Four Seasons Health Care which has entered into administration after being unable to deal with its reported £525million debt.

Four Seasons Health Care is Britain’s second largest care home provider with 322 residential and nursing care homes and the development understandably raises concerns for how its current residents will be affected. It has been reported by Four Seasons however, that “the operating companies under which the care home and hospital operations sit are not in administration and continue to run as normal by the existing leadership teams” with no impact expected for its residents. It is understood that the group has secured funding to ensure continuity of care while it seeks a new owner.

Cuts in local authority fees coupled with rising costs and the introduction of the national living wage have long caused concerns for the stability of providers such as Four Seasons Health Care. Rehana Azam, GMB national secretary, has said: “The possible collapse of Four Seasons shows our care system is in crisis, it is crumbling beneath us because the funding isn’t there.”

Whilst the Green Paper is therefore intended to deal with the issue, there are calls for a focus on what can be done now to support people whilst this is awaited. Putting more money into this Autumn’s Spending Review has been one suggestion raised to act as a short term measure and whilst it would assist to some extent, there is a clear lack of funding in this sector and it is not clear exactly where the necessary funds are going to be found. A lack of funding inevitably raises concerns regarding the standard of care and the ability to deliver the individual patient’s needs which may result in the potential for more claims to be brought if those services are deemed to have been lacking.


RachelBarnes

Rachel Barnes, Solicitor, BLM
rachel.barnes@blmlaw.com

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