Dear Prime Minister,

A pledge to fix our broken social care system

There is no more pressing domestic issue than fixing our broken social care system. Every day, more and more vulnerable older people are denied access to vital care and support. Those who do manage to receive care can find themselves in debt, draining down their savings or even having to sell their home to pay for it.

New analysis from Independent Age has found that in the last 20 years, more than 330,000 older people have sold their home to pay for care. Rebuilding our social care system is now a national emergency.

The new Prime Minister has a unique opportunity to fix our social care system, end the unjust dementia lottery of care, and deliver a new social care settlement that meets the care needs of today’s older generation and for future generations to come. With new leadership comes the opportunity to succeed where others have failed, and deliver landmark social care reforms to provide all older people with safety and security in later life.  

Between 2017 and 2018, in England almost 300,000 pensioners were refused help from their local authority. A further 350,000 were signposted to other services. This means that 49% of all older people asking for care failed to get help from their local authority when they needed it.

The crisis has an immense human cost as many older people are suffering poorer health, loss of dignity and financial hardship due to an inequitable system and through no fault of their own. Home care is of limited availability, offering limited support, and high cost care homes have become the default place for many for their end of life care. Neither are focussed on promoting prevention and independence. This situation cannot continue.

Our analysis of care home performance across England in 2019 found that in the last year, more than a third (37%) of local authorities have seen care home ratings get worse in their area. This means that 2.6 Million older people are now more likely to face a poor choice of care home.

The damaging state of social care is also putting unnecessary pressures on an already stretched NHS, which comes at a high cost and provides poor value for money for the taxpayer. Indeed, the premise of the NHS Long Term Plan is based on having a fully funded social care system. Failure to act on social care will result in a failure to deliver this plan.

The catastrophic cost of care – the care cap doesn’t work

Proposals to introduce a cap on care costs will fail the majority of older people. A £72,000 cap on care costs would only benefit 1 in 10 people after 6 years in residential care. A £100,000 cap is even less effective, helping fewer than 1 in 20. 64% of older people would not benefit from any form of cap proposed.

In 1999, when free personal care was first proposed by the Royal Commission on adult social care, residential care cost an average of £322 per week. Today, the average cost is £622 - a 93% increase. This has far outstripped the average net income for pensioners which has only seen a 50% increase.

Since 1999, the cost of care has almost doubled and yet older people’s ability to pay for their care has not increased at anywhere near the same rate.

Ending the unfair access to social care – making social care free at the point of use

For over a generation, reform and renewal of social care has been shamelessly overlooked by politicians to the detriment of older people. Despite there having been 12 white papers, green papers and commissions since 1999, the one determining factor has been the absence of political will.

As Prime Minister, Independent Age is urging you to prioritise social care funding in your first 100 days and commit to delivering free personal care. 

Our analysis shows that free personal care is affordable and will eliminate catastrophic care costs for everyone, whether they are receiving domiciliary or residential care. Free personal care means that everyone who needs it would get help with daily activities such as getting dressed, having a wash and getting out of bed. It would markedly reduce unmet need, allow people to stay in their own homes for longer and reduce pressure on the NHS.

Despite the lack of action from government to reform social care over the past two decades, support for the introduction of free personal care continues to grow. Parliamentary committees in both Houses and think tanks on both sides of the political divide have called for free personal care, founded on the principle that care must be free at the point at the point of use.

Free personal care would end the unfair lottery whereby someone who has a long term health condition, such as cancer, gets all of their treatment free at the point of use, while someone who develops dementia will be subject to a means test and end up spending huge amounts on care for the rest of their life.

The voices of older people

Independent Age is speaking to older people across the country about their experiences of care and catastrophic costs as part of our Let’s get personal campaign. We will share these personal stories with MPs across England and with the Government. 

Far too many older people are losing their hard earned savings, and their homes, to pay for vital care and support. Polling by YouGov shows that over half (51%) of homeowners in England over the age of 50 fear losing their savings and homes to pay for their care in the future.

We need to rebuild a social care system that is sustainable, fair and responsive, and not predicated on one’s ability to pay for it. Not only is the public in favour of free personal care, polling by YouGov shows that 7 in 10 are prepared to pay more for it. They must be listened to by the next Prime Minister.

Older people are being let down by a social care system that doesn’t work for them, but it doesn’t have to be like this. With the necessary political will, your administration could deliver urgently needed transformational change to social care - benefiting older people today and future generations.

Yours sincerely,

George McNamara signature

George McNamara

Director of Policy and Influencing