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Support for new social care laws, taxation and insurance
Date of article: 17-May-11
Article By: Richard Howard, News Editor
Last week the Law Commission published a report that recommended a complete reform of adult social care law, stating the current law to be ‘outdated’ and ‘incoherent’, in order to clarify the rights that service users can be entitled to and the remit that local authorities have in meeting their communities’ care needs. The report is nicely timed for Government debate considering that the Dilnot Independent Commission, the forming of which was one of the Coalition’s first major actions upon coming to power last year, is finalising its own recommendations over how the UK will finance the care of a rapidly ageing population and due to put forward its conclusions in July.
The Law Commission report itself proposed to give carers new legal rights, to achieve a consistent framework of assessment to avoid regional disparities over how critical care needs are judged to be, while also looking to define how local authorities and the NHS are expected to collaborate through clear and concise rules. If MPs agree the Commission’s proposals are practical then the new adult social care law might succeed in overcoming many of the hurdles that Central Government has so far lost its footing on concerning elderly care. Most notably, although care organisations praised the extra £2bn directed into social care by the Chancellor at a time when economic circumstances meant that every other public service was being cut, that around half of councils have since made significant cuts anyway exposes the lack of influence the Government has over whether funding is indeed spent on what it was actually intended for – something the previous Labour administration too encountered on directing money into dementia care patients but which the sector never received. The ‘clear and concise… legal rules’ the Law Commission recommends are intended to tie council’s hands over the services those with care needs can expect to receive, while also ensuring that the NHS no longer continues to undervalue the social care it finances, which it has recently been accused of forsaking in order to protect budgets.
The future of social care in England is appearing to become more and more entangled with the remit of the NHS, as both seem to be attempting to rely upon the other in order to successfully shift the weight of increasing demand in their own favour. While social care experts have long been arguing that more funding on care-at-home services will alleviate pressure from many hospital services through less bed blocking, NHS services have themselves been accused of failing to utilise home care capabilities. Prime Minister David Cameron has himself added some momentum to the drive to encourage health services to work together more effectively, in a speech yesterday that confirmed the NHS may indeed take control of social care budgets, should the contentious health reforms ever make it through Parliament.
An updated adult social care law would seem to further support Dilnot’s goals and points to a significant repositioning over Central Government’s capabilities on influencing local care services, to hopefully cope with the elderly demographic better than has been forecast. There remains the small matter of implementing a new social insurance to help the population pay for its care – so far the Coalition has succeeded in avoiding any new taxation methods in paying off the deficit – but the care sector’s need for a firm direction on financing the needs of an ageing populace is even greater at this time than the politician’s need for popularity.
The Law Commission report can be viewed in full at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/lawcommission/docs/lc326_adult_social_care.pdf