Boris Johnson, UK new Prime Minister made the following promise at the steps of Downing Street after visiting the Queen:
“My job is to protect you or your parents or grandparents from the fear of having to sell your home to pay for the costs of care…And so I am announcing now – on the steps of Downing Street – that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all, and with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve.”
Looking at this policy alone, one would think that the Government are only interested in looking after the elderly many of them would have become disabled and requiring social care during later life. Many of the elderly people have brought their home at a time when houses were plentiful and when council flats were being sold at the fraction of the market value.
What seems to be missing in Boris’s announcement on fixing social care is the unfairness for younger disabled people – many of them are born disabled and living well into adulthood thanks to advancements in healthcare. For disabled people, they would not have purchased their own homes, so leaving many to pay for social care out of their own money until savings fall below around £23,000 from day one. For those who are working, earnings cannot be considered as means-tested income that will inform the level of charge for the disabled person receiving care. And for disabled people who are in receipt of state benefits, income can be taken into account for deciding social care charges. So, actually, one can find that a disabled person reliant on benefits whilst living in rented accommodation could be paying more in social care at the point of use than a disabled person with a million pound mansion – this cannot be fair! And of course it’s more likely and I have heard it for myself that family members with property and money use financial arrangements such as trusts to shield their property from local authorities getting their hands over the family assets. However, with increasing numbers of disabled people living in rented accommodation and without earnings, the question has to be asked whether the Local Authorities administering charging policies are worth doing in the first place – i.e. does the local authority spend more in staff and admin than what is actually collected in social care charges, not alone the actual cost of care itself.
A bigger question needs to be asked about charging for social care as a whole in terms of sharing responsibility amongst those who uses the services. Not everyone is being asked to contribute towards the funding of Job Seekers Allowance as Employers and Employees fund this benefit through employers and employees national insurance contributions. Self-employed people are expected to pay a smaller NI rate to cover pensions and sick benefits and indeed the elderly, those over 60 are exempted from paying NI all together regardless what they earn. What this illustrates is that the burden of paying for job seekers allowance falls upon those who are more likely to benefit from it, i.e. people who become unemployed from being an employee. Further, the burden of cost is distributed according to what one can pay, i.e. the more one earns, and the more one contributes towards Job seekers allowance. One could argue that a similar scheme is in operation regards to social care, the burden of costs involved in providing social care is met by all the social care users. Social Care users with a lot more money and assets will be expected to pay more than their poorer peers. And for the poorest social care users, they will not be charged at all and therefore one could argue that local authorities charging policies are fair. However, what would the response be if local authorities had the power to charge a sliding scale of school fees for parents using the public school system on top of income and council tax?