Home Cares for You?
Paul Turner, Managing Director Retail at Just Group in the UK, shares his views on the social care debate, and suggests that helping people look ahead to later life with confidence rather than trepidation requires a bold vision of a better future.
The recent report from the Equity Release Council is a reminder that there are very real consequences to successive governments’ dithering over social care reforms.
Harrowing reports of the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on care homes is obviously fresh in our minds but the truth is that years of government inaction has undermined enthusiasm for people to start thinking about or planning for their own potential care needs.
Even before the pandemic most people would prefer to stay living in their own homes if they needed later life care, but this recent research highlights that 60% of over-50s said they were ‘fearful’ about moving into a care home.
This desire to stay at home in later life is a key theme that has emerged repeatedly in the research we have conducted for our annual Just Group Care Report, which has been tracking the attitudes and understanding of over-45s towards the social care sector since 2012.
People consistently say they are interested in the care debate. But they are also confused about their rights and responsibilities and split on how care funding should be divided between State and individual.
Those who have experienced organising care for loved ones find it an onerous undertaking. Our 2020 report found four in five (78% found the system complex and hard to navigate, three-quarters (77%) found the process stressful, and nearly nine in 10 (88%) were shocked at how expensive care is.
People prefer not to think about or discuss the issue of care. We found four in five people over-45s have not thought about care or spoken to family or friends about it. Only a tiny minority have made plans or say they have saved money to fund it.
Helping people look ahead to later life with confidence rather than trepidation requires a bold vision of a better future. That requires a forward-thinking government prepared to act on its convictions and to be straight with the public about future care standards and costs.
The absence of clear policy or intention means it’s difficult for people to make plans for their own future. Unfortunately, this is exacerbated by frequent announcements about ‘fixing’ social care – creating a sense of impending change that never seems to bear fruit.
A more candid conversation is required to engage the public. And that honesty needs to extend to one of the most emotive issues – whether people should have to use the wealth in their homes to pay for care.
Political promises to ‘protect the family home’ must be set against the cost of social care and the trillions of pounds tied up in pensioner homes. And this must be balanced against people’s increasing resolve to stay in their own homes for longer and the rising expectations around the standard of care they want.
Covid-19 has thrown a massive spanner into the economic workings of this country and hit the care sector hard indeed. The big question going forward is whether that will be a catalyst for change towards a care system fit for the 21st Century or just another excuse to kick the can further down the road.
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