FIVE of the top care providers have written an open letter to the Chancellor, George Osborne, warning of the potential ‘catastrophic collapse’ in care as a result of the introduction of the National Living Wage next year which they say will lead to the closure of many homes because funding just can’t match the rising costs.
This comes shortly after Andrea Sutcliffe, the Chief Inspector for Social Care at the Care Quality Commission, aired her views about how care is in crisis.
She joins a growing club including the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.
The Government also just about admitted it by postponing the implementation of its measures to cap the cost of care.
Of course, the crisis is inevitable. While demand for care rises with a growing number of older people needing support, the funding for care has been cut substantially.
Cuts in council spending are squeezing care providers and forcing more older people to pay for care themselves or to rely on family and friends or to struggle without.
Cuts in care put more pressure on the NHS and hospitals as older people can’t get the support they need in their own home. And the pressures are going to get worse as government tightens public spending and care providers face a rise in the national minimum wage next year, which will lead to higher care fees.
As a result families are increasingly being expected to pick up the rising cost of care. The cuts and the scrapping of the cap on care costs mean the bills for care will have to be paid by more older people, particularly those with dementia, and many will be forced to sell their home to pay for their care.
So is it all doom and gloom?
Not necessarily but only if the Government recognises the crisis in care and takes action this autumn in the forthcoming spending review to address the concerns.
First it must recognise the problems faced by councils. Unless councils’ funding crisis is eased, they will continue to reduce the fees they pay care homes and home care providers which will further impact on the quality of care. And councils will continue to restrict the number of people they help.
Secondly, the Government must continue to push for care and health to be integrated to make better use of resources, to support people at home and in their local community, and to make the system easier for families to use.
Thirdly, the Government could help families on low and middle incomes pay for care by increasing the assets threshold from £23,250 to £250,000 – the average price of a home in this country. This would cost the same as the cap but would be much easier to implement and would be better targeted.
Finally, anyone needing care should get advice from national and local charities to find their way through the complex care system. And if you are being asked to pay for care, then you should seek specialist financial advice via the Society of Later Life Advisers. (Tel, 0845 303 2909. www.societyoflaterlifeadvisers.co.uk)
If action isn’t taken by Government, the care crisis won’t go away. It will only get worse as our population ages.
As families realise what is going on – that they are being expected to pay more and more for care themselves – this will become one of the big political issues in the lead up to the 2020 election. Generations of older people are being let down by the very government they voted for.
Stephen Burke is director of www.goodcareguide.co.uk