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State pension model could fund social care, says Tory MP

General Election – Documents Stock

The social care system should adopt the model of the state pension, with taxpayers funding a ‘universal care entitlement’ that can be topped up with savings and housing wealth, a Conservative MP has suggested.

Writing in a report for the Centre for Policy Studies, Damian Green argues that the pension system is the “best model” for social care – guaranteeing a reasonable universal safety net, but with extra individual provision encouraged on top.

He said that the proposals would ease pressure on local budgets and prevent a post code lottery in dementia care.

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Green, who was in charge of the Social Care Green Paper as work and pensions secretary until he resigned in June 2017, also offered solutions to fix the immediate £2.75bn social care funding gap, including taxing the winter fuel allowance, diverting savings from the Spending Review and imposing a 1% National Insurance surcharge on the over 50s.

“The crisis in our social care system is one of the most pressing issues our country currently faces. It causes acute problems for the wider NHS, with 1.98 million delayed transfers in 2017/18 for those moving out of NHS care. The Conservative Party has an urgent need to show that it has ideas about vital domestic policy issues such as this,” he said.

“That why I propose a wholesale change in our approach to social care, mirroring the state pension system with the introduction of a Universal Care Entitlement and Care Supplement.

“By combining this new system with an increase in funding we will be able to tackle this most intractable of political dilemmas fairly and responsibly.”

Robert Colvile, Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said Green has come up with a system that is “fair to everyone”.

But George McNamara, director of Policy at Independent Age said the proposed Universal Care Entitlement would need to be a high enough level for older people to be able live well, no just enough to get by.

 “This should mean as a minimum all older people having access to free personal care, an entitlement that is already available in Scotland and has proven to be popular, affordable and sustainable. It must also address the unmet care needs of the one million older people missing out on support as they are not eligible, according to criteria set out by government.  If we are asking the public to pay more through taxation, they need to know they will get access to the care they need,” he said.

Steven Cameron, Pensions director at Aegon welcomed the proposals as “helpful” in adding to the debate on how social care should be funded and keeping pressure on the government to advance its promised green paper.

“With an increasing number of us facing the prospect of needing social care in later life, the government needs to put in place a stable and sustainable way of sharing costs between the state and individuals, based on their wealth.  Importantly, this must be fair and accepted as fair across generations and wealth bands,” he said.

“The Government’s share needs to be adequately funded, ensuring good quality care across the country, with an end to the current geographical lottery. As our society increasingly enjoys longer lives, this inevitably comes at a cost. While this has proven particularly politically sensitive, we urgently need an open debate around how to pay for this, including the potential for increased taxes, earmarked for social care. Ideally, a new deal would gain cross-party support.”

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Sarah Clarke

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