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Social care reform – a step in the right direction

With a growing proportion of the UK living well into their 80s, 90s and beyond, the need for adult social care is only going to rise in the coming decades.

The cost of care can be staggering, with the average care home fees in South East England at £33,500 each year, rising to £45,500* each year where nursing care is required. Individuals with assets of more than £23,250 are expected to contribute to the costs of their care, often eroding valuable savings significantly and, sadly, sometimes requiring the sale of the home they may have lived in for many years.

Until now, legislation has been a combination of around 70 years of laws, and has long been in need of reform. Fortunately, this has at last beenrecognised with the passing of the Care Act 2014, bringing significant reforms to adult social care.

The Act brings a number of changes, key amongst which are to provide for:

  • A duty on councils to provide preventative services to people in need to support their health
  • Putting personal budgets on a legal footing
  • A duty on councils to consider the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of individuals in need of care
  • New powers for the chief inspector of social care to hold poor performing providers to account
  • A requirement for councils to offer deferred payment schemes so that individuals do not have to sell their homes to pay for residential care in their lifetime
  • A cap on personal care costs (not including accommodation costs) of £72,000
  • New rights for carers including the right to an assessment of their needs and the right to get support if they meet eligibility criteria

Local authorities will also have to provide information as to how people can get access to ‘independent financial advice’ on matters relating to their care. During consultation on the Care Bill, there had been debate as to whether the law should impose the use of regulated advisers for long-term care needs, who can be formally qualified in this area. However, regulated advice was considered unnecessary and didn’t make the Act.

The regulations and guidance that accompany the Act are still to be published. It is the detail within these documents that will dictate how successful the Act will be in ensuring individuals are receiving the right amount of help and support, whether they are the one needing care, or whether they are caring for someone in need.

Whilst we welcome these changes, many people will continue to be unaware of the potential cost of long term care and how that would be provided. Unfortunately it’s a far too familiar outlook of “it won’t happen to me”, much like insufficient financial planning for sickness, disability or death. Increasing public awareness is the first stage in addressing what remains a plausible need for many, so there’s still a long way to go.

* Source: Laing & Buisson Care of Older People UK Market Report 2013/14