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Social care reforms: clever politics, bad government

11 February 2013

10:14 AM

11 February 2013

10:14 AM

Judge a Government on its priorities.  And then its priorities within priorities.  Amidst the clamour for rapid and credible deficit reduction, the dawning reality that green shoots won’t sprout unaided, Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reform and Michael Gove’s education revolution, social care did make the hastily compiled Coalition to-do list. But a Government’s Parliamentary programme is a game of two halves, and within weeks of Andrew Dilnot’s radical report in 2011, it became clear that any such reform would be a second half priority.

Today, after months of cross-party Whitehall wrangling and internal Coalition debate, the Health Secretary proudly unveils the Government’s offer.  A new cap on the total social care costs an individual will have to pay over a lifetime – £75,000 – and a much higher means test threshold, up from the tediously low £23,500 to a rumoured £123,000.

Our airwaves and inboxes are already overrun by care industry specialists, pouring over the details and giving their feedback.  For those who have long-pleaded for bold funding reform, today is bitter-sweet. Something is better than nothing.  At last ministers have made their way to that long grass their predecessors kept kicking to.  But they also know that with such a high cap in place, these are reforms for the few not the many.  Millions will continue to face catastrophic personal social care costs.

What’s true for them is that ‘Dilnot diluted’ is no Dilnot original, but it is palpably better than no Dilnot at all.


But take a step back.  The social care system is in crisis. It is broken and underfunded. The poorest pensioners – society’s most vulnerable – face sub-standard care.  A two year Centre for Social Justice review took me the length and breadth of the UK to meet many of these older people.  What we uncovered, I believe, should shake our nation and its leaders.

There is a dangerous lack of prevention and early intervention support to help older people stay independent at home. ‘Rationing’ renders many who need care unable to get it.  Numerous care workers are devastatingly demoralised, poorly trained, paid the bare minimum and often leave the sector as quickly as they join it. Local councils undercut and underpay providers leading to sub-standard quality. Flying 15 minute visits short-change people who need help at home.  The Care Quality Commission, the sector’s flagship regulator, checks process more forensically than quality.  The long list of problems goes on.

So, amidst today’s fanfare and pointed debate, ask yourself one simple question.  Which of these pressing failures will be reversed by the Coalition’s multi-billion pound ‘investment’? The unavoidable answer is none.  Not a single, shameful one.

Many dedicated but drowning professionals delivering care on the front line can think of countless flaws in need of attention and investment.  Protecting housing wealth might be on the list, but much further down.  Perhaps there is a case for implementing Dilnot-style reforms.  But first, it is our duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

This is clever politics, bad government.

Christian Guy is Managing Director at the Centre for Social Justice.

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Show comments
  • Daniel Maris

    I think people generally are far more intelligent and far more amenable to tackling this problem than politicians suppose. People realise that the lottery of losing all your assets is not fair. If the government brought in a compulsory insurance scheme for over 50s to cover the costs currently covered by private individuals that would be supported I believe.

  • Jane Young

    For once I am largely in agreement with an article in the Spectator. The further the Centre for Social Justice moves from the ideology and prejudice of its founder and his party the better. This Government wouldn’t know social justice if it dropped into the middle of the Commons chamber flapping its wings.

  • Jim Moore

    Why do people pay 12% of their income for such shoddy national insurance and mismanagement of their money. This year 101 bn was raised in NI contributions and 155 in income taxes and 201 bn spent on social services. So what has happened to the surplus cause 28 bn are being managed by the Debt reduction group set up which obviously is getting more then the surplus at the cost of essential services that people have paid insurance contributions too. The truth is politicians need to remove their grubby hands and these funds be managed and run independently of them who are diverting the funds to cut taxes which then show up as massive profits with the large corporates

  • alabenn

    Protecting housing wealth might be on the list, but much further down.
    Not if it is your house, that is where people like you go wrong, you assume anything that someone has earned throughout their life should be put to use to keep other feckless people in the comfort of social security they have enjoyed most of their lives, almost all poor families have relatives close by as the same families could not be bothered to go elsewhere to better themselves, make social welfare payments to these families conditional upon looking after their elderly relatives.
    I doubt any government would have the nerve.

  • 2trueblue

    So how do you judge the previous 13yrs where the current format was set up and executed? With a vacuous media and poor journalism we had no serious critique. It was all about buzz words, repeated, and repeated by the MSM until they believed it and it was accepted as fact.

    Now we are learning some of the realities, North Staffs is just the tip of the iceberg. Baby P…… a reality where no one was responsible, but we have that lovely phrase parroted
    ;Lessons have been learned”

    The simple fact is if you have saved you will have to use that money no matter what cap is put on it. We live in a very selfish world, families no longer live locally and everybody is ‘too busy’. Carers provided by the system do not live/know the areas and should be recruited with locality in mind.
    The health service at some point must stop relying on ‘Agency staff, as they are a huge drain on running costs.
    We had bad government for 13yrs, change is difficult to put in place, and we know that money was thrown at it with very little result in quality or substance over 13yrs.

  • Chris lancashire

    Perhaps ask two questions. The second being, where on earth do you think the money is coming from?

    • Youbian

      From overseas aid and money wasted on climate change initiatives. There is s
      Much waste in government and yet we leave the elderly to struggle.

  • andagain

    This is clever politics, bad government.

    I’d say that was normal.

  • Bob Dixon

    What does it cost?
    We looked after mothering law in our home as she had no money and as she got older she could do less and less. Before Altzeimers got her we did manage a holiday to Turkey.
    Then she got worse and we did not have the skills so she went into a local care home.
    They were magnificent and we visited her weekly to check on her care.She lived for another 10 years. The cost to the local authority was £1,000.00 a week, £52,000.00 per year and £520,000 for her extra 10years..

    I see no comments on the costs involved. Why not?

    It is clear to me why the elderly go into hospitals and not well run care homes.

    Its the costs.

    • telemachus

      Yes and this announcement does nothing for that
      Indeed the reverse because it takes the eye off the problem
      I have never understood why it is wrong to use accumulated property wealth to fund accommodation when the property is not needed
      Each generation should stand on its own feet
      The only good thing about today’s announcement is that the inheritance tax is withering a bit

  • HooksLaw

    Its actually the other way round.

    • Its_not_craig

      @HooksLaw Unfortunately you typify why my Conservative Party is going to lose the next election so massively.

      The answer to every bad policy from this government isn’t “Well, the last lot didn’t do it” or “But Gordon Brown destroyed the economy”. True as these statements may be, they have no bearing on the fact that this Social Care policy is a dog – as the author so eloquently describes.

      I often wonder whether my Conservative colleagues are secretly wishing to be back in opposition, comfortable in blaming someone, anyone and everyone else for their perceived ills in the World.

      • alabenn

        Unfortunately you typify why my Conservative Party is going to lose the next election so massively.

        It is not Hookslaw that is typical it is you who fails to realise that Cameron cannot do what you want because he does not have the MPs top do so, whether he would do what you want is a moot point, but if you want a Tory government you should be out shouting for one and not carping on here.