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Social Care funding in the Election spotlight

Social care is a political hot potato with many proposals put forward and withdrawn over the last decade… The U-turn on the care funding cap then, as hailed by the media, ‘dementia tax’ in 2017, followed by promises in 2019 that no one would have to sell their house to fund their care which have not come to fruition. Against that backdrop both main parties have made promises about the future of Adult Social Care in their manifestos. But what are the pledges and how might they affect individuals in real terms?

The Labour manifesto discusses establishing a national care service, similar to the NHS to improve funding and oversight. The idea is to ensure that people will receive better care and support to live at home for longer. They also aim to provide “consistency of care across the country”. They remain committed to capping care costs, raising the upper capital threshold for state funded support and increasing NHS and social care funding.

The Conservative manifesto pledges to introduce the long-awaited capping of care costs at £86,000 and increasing the upper capital threshold for state funded support to £100,000 from £ 23,250 from October 2025. They also promise to provide greater power to individuals by enabling self-funders to request their council arranges a care home placement and to give more funding to local authorities to pay for a fair cost of care.

Both parties appear keen to limit the financial impact that the cost of care has on individual’s finances. The increase to the capital thresholds will mean that more people will qualify for funding. Coupled with placing a cap on what individuals will be required to pay towards their care should, in theory, greatly reduce the drain on families’ savings. However, the devil is always in the detail. Reviewing Conservative funding proposals in 2022 revealed that a significant proportion of ‘care’ costs did not count towards the cap. Further the tapering of contributions left those with fewer savings comparatively worse off.

There is no doubt social care is in crisis and there was excitement in 2010 that the Dilnot report offered a solution with the cap on the cost of care. However, care funding reform has been kicked down the road so many times. A watered-down version of Dilnot’s proposal were first going to be introduced under the Care Act in 2016, and then delayed until 2020, and delayed again until 2023 and delayed again until 2025...

The cost of funding the cap is eye-watering. With the funding set aside by the Conservatives in 2022 being diverted and no clear details of how the care reforms will be funded or achieved in the Labour manifesto, there is concern that these proposals will not find financial backing.

It is not all bad news, though. The parties’ attention is on Social Care and introducing a national care service, providing greater choice and boosting care workers pay will all help to ensure that the individual, ultimately, receives better care. 

Both parties have also committed to strengthening and reforming children’s social care, with Conservatives stating that “we will improve the experiences of children in social care, because every child deserves to live in a safe and loving home”.  However, how either party will fund these reforms is unclear. 

Labour and Conservatives are also committed to introducing mental health provisions, with the introduction of mental health professionals and teams in all schools and colleges and in particular, pushing for the reforming and modernising the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA) legislation.  The reform of this act has been discussed for a number of years now and it is vital that it is looked at to ensure that the rights, autonomy and preferences of those individuals that fall within the Act are reviewed and enhanced.

Unfortunately, neither party have suggested that they will look to revisit the Liberty Protection Safeguards, which were due to be implemented to replace the current Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.

Special Educational Needs do not feature heavily in the manifestos. In relation to Special Educational Needs (SEN), the Conservatives wish to put a stop to the postcode lottery of support and look to deliver 60,000 more school places and 25 new free schools for children with SEN. Labour wish to look towards “improving inclusivity and expertise in mainstream schools” whilst ensuring that special schools can cater for the most complex needs. Both of these pledges are positive steps but probably need to be looked at together as opposed to one or the other to have a significant impact.

In terms of the impact of the care provisions above, it will be difficult to comment on the overall impact until they are actually implemented, and further information is provided by the party in power as to the funding provisions. For now, the advice remains that it is vital to plan ahead. Taking financial advice early on, looking at pension funding, structuring your Will and getting Lasting Powers of Attorney in place will mitigate the impact on your resources and help to ensure you receive the care you are entitled to.

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