Charity Age UK has condemned the English care system for being outdated and underfunded compared to other developed countries.
This follows the publication of a report, conducted by Incisive Health on behalf of Age UK, which compares the approaches to long-term care in Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Japan to England. It found that a failure to update the English system of means tested care funding has caused it to lag behind other countries in the study.
England applies stricter means testing than the other countries examined, which have more progressive systems that are insurance-based in some cases, according to Age UK.
The report points out that the means test threshold has not risen in line with inflation, effectively cutting it by 9% over the last 10 years.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, says: “England has been left behind in the race to update the funding of care for older people compared to some other similar nations. As a result, our older people and their families are paying more and bearing a lot more of the risk of needing expensive long-term care.
“What’s more, the freezing of thresholds and allowances in recent years has made our offer to older people in this country even stingier.”
As social care is a devolved matter, each county within the UK handles it differently. England has a fixed means testing limit for all long-term care services, meaning anyone with savings or assets above £23,250 has to pay all of the costs associated with their long-term care, with tapered means-tested support available to those with savings and assets between £23,250 and £14,250.
Even those below the £14,250 threshold are expected to pay a contribution towards the costs of their care through a deduction from their state pension.
In comparison, other countries like Germany provide a non-means tested basic level of support or cap the level of co-payment (Japan also offers the latter). Meanwhile, France uses a more generous and gradual means test.
Charges for care have also increased as local authorities have come under growing financial pressure.
Green paper must “grasp the nettle”
The publication of the government’s Social Care Green Paper, which will include proposals to reform the care system in England, is set to be released this autumn following several delays.
Ms Abrahams says: “It is crucial that the forthcoming Social Care Green Paper isn’t yet another failed exercise. The evidence from other countries is that a package of measures that significantly improve the care offer to older people attracts a lot more public support than something more timid. The public isn’t stupid and will demand good value in return for paying more.
“Bringing our care system up to a decent standard and making it sustainable won’t happen overnight and as citizens we will all need to contribute to the cost in different ways, but if they can do it in these other countries surely we can here too. And the sooner we start the better.”
Mike Birtwistle, founding partner at Incisive Health, adds: “The Green Paper must grasp the nettle of this challenge and propose a realistic and funded plan to address the immediate crisis, as well as delivering longer term reforms to ensure the fairness and sustainability of England’s social care system. Ducking the issue cannot be an option.”