Raising taxes is not the solution for funding adult social care, despite evidence that suggests there is an appetite for it, the Local Government Association’s (LGA) head of policy has said.
Speaking to delegates at the Future of Care Conference in London yesterday, Sally Burlington said it’s not reasonable to ask people to pay more tax for social care when they don’t understand the services it provides.
A survey conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Health Foundation last year indicates that there is increasing public support for paying more tax to maintain and improve health and social care.
In the survey of 2,000 people, 62% said that if the government decided to increase spending on social care, this should be funded through some form of tax increase, up from 51% in May 2018.
However, focus-group work conducted by the LGA showed that people are “very reluctant”, to pay more for social care.
“This is partly because they don’t understand it,” said Burlington. “It’s very difficult to explain to somebody that they are going to have to pay more in tax for a service they don’t understand, especially when they had thought they had already paid for it during their working life, and therefore they expect to get it for free.”
Extra funding that has gone to social care has come from the social care precept in recent years, and 90% of councils with adult social care responsibilities plan to make use of this in 2020, according to a recent Local Government Finance Survey.
The 2% precept, which is the maximum could be levied, raises around £600 million per year. However, the annual increase, just in costs from inflation and demography, is more than double that each year, according to Burlington.
“So this could only be a contribution to those costs. Moreover, where the council tax raises most money is not related to where the social care needs are greatest,” she said.
“Council tax is the most visible tax that we have in the UK, but social care is one of the least visible services to the public. So you’re confronting people with a bill that says that you’re paying for social care, when people don’t understand social care. We feel that this is not a good way to fund this crucial service.”
Burlington said the social care sector needs to focus on building public understanding of the sector.
“We need a campaign that explains why this is so important. It’s important for people to plan and for us, as a society, to think very rationally about how we fund social care and why it’s needed,” she said.
Concluding her talk, Burlington said the priority for social care has to be to stabilise the system before it loads more reforms onto it.
“More reforms could cause more instability, particularly if they are not fully funded,” she added. “We also need to keep the debate about social care going, and the more we speak with one voice, the better.”