FOR most of us, the National Health Service has been around for ever. It’s been there whenever we have needed it and always free at the point of delivery. So, it’s hard to believe that it is, in fact, only 70 years old. As we approach this milestone, it’s our responsibility to reflect on the changes that are needed for the next 70 years.
This is why I welcome the conclusions of a cross-party inquiry by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, upon which I have the honour to serve, and the Health and Social Care committee which proposes that individuals and employers should pay a new contribution into a dedicated fund set aside to help pay for the growing demand for adult social care.
The report also suggests that those who are judged as ‘in need of care’ could direct payments to loved ones, such as family members, so that they could be cared for by those who best understand their needs.
It is widely accepted that one of the main causes of the crippling pressures on the NHS is our growing population and the increased number of elderly people – who are living longer and in need of care.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s recent announcement that there is to be a further £20.5bn for the NHS, that’s the equivalent of £394m a week – but this will not cover the increasing costs associated with social care for our elderly population. The funding gap is estimated to be around £2.5bn in the next financial year alone.
To address this, we need a radical new system. This is why I fully support the proposed ‘Social Care Premium’, to be paid either as an additional element of National Insurance or with the premium paid into a dedicated not-for-profit social insurance fund which people would be confident could only be used for social care.
To ensure fairness between the generations, the premium should only be paid by those aged over 40 and extended to those over the age of 65, with the money being held in an independent, dedicated and audited fund, which will help secure public trust and acceptance for the measure.
The simple fact is that we must find a solution for the one in 10 of us who will face catastrophic care costs of over £100,000. In my view, this cannot mean a blank cheque for those in need, or for the taxpayer.
The proposed system would be simple, scalable and sustainable and operates very successfully in other countries such as Germany and Japan.
The Government should now take the opportunity to build both a political and public consensus around the need for a new Social Care Premium to secure a fair and sustainable system in the long-term”.
The committees say that the personal element of social care, such as help with washing, dressing and eating, should eventually be delivered to everyone who needs it, although accommodation costs should continue to be paid on a means-tested basis.
The report recommends wider ranging engagement to include all those receiving social care, carers, relatives and care workers, as well as the wider public, to ensure public support and it calls for a cross-party Parliamentary commission to take forward the proposals and build and maintain political consensus.
It will be based on the following six principles; providing high quality care; considering working age adults as well as older people; ensuring fairness on the ‘who and how’ we pay for social care, including between the generations; aspiring over time towards universal access to personal care free at the point of delivery; risk pooling – protecting people from catastrophic costs, and protecting a greater portion of their savings and assets; ‘Earmarking’ of contributions to maintain public support.
I am fully behind these proposals. I believe that this new system would radically change the way we deliver social care and offer all of us, whatever our age, the comfort of knowing that we, and our loved ones, will be well looked after in the twilight years of our lives.
Kevin Hollinrake is the Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton.