A new universal entitlement to adult social care based on the model of the state pension should be introduced to address the current “financially and politically unsustainable” system, according to former cabinet minister Damian Green.
Mr Green, who as first secretary of state was put in charge of delivering the promised social care green paper, says shifting care costs from councils to Whitehall would ease pressure on local authority budgets and boost the delivery of more retirement housing and care homes.
In a report published today by the think tank Centre for Policy Studies, Mr Green suggests that an immediate funding gap of about £2.75bn could be filled by the introduction of a tax on winter fuel allowance or diverting savings from the spending review.
Alternatively, Mr Green argues a 1% “surcharge” could be introduced on national insurance contributions by the over-50s.
The Fixing the Care Crisis report says the current social care system is “opaque” and “unfair”, and “actively discourages” councils from investing in care provision and housing for older people.
It argues a new universal care entitlement – free at the point of use regardless of an individual’s circumstances - would guarantee everyone a decent standard of support, with the option to buy more expensive care by purchasing a care supplement.
This supplement, Mr Green says, would be something like an annuity or private insurance and bring more much-needed private money into the system.
Mr Green says the universal entitlement would be set at a flat rate level of support which is adjusted to need and apply to both home and residential care.
It adds the proposals would also boost productivity in the sector, which has fallen by 20% over the last 20 years and resulted in taxpayers putting in more money for a worse service.
Mr Green adds the introduction of universal care would not end councils’ involvement in delivering support.
He argues the proposals would be “fair” and “fully funded”, while preventing the high costs incurred by people with dementia and people being forced to sell their homes.
However, the report says there needs to be an attempt to reduce costs across the social care system.
Mr Green adds protecting councils from soaring costs of care is likely to be supported “in Westminster and beyond” by addressing the “warped incentives” which have led to care home provision stagnating.
He says: “I also propose that we create a new use class for older person housing and require councils to meet local need, in order to help drive this supply of housing up.”
The social care green paper announced at the Budget in March 2017 has been repeatedly delayed. In January health secretary Matt Hancock promised it would be published in April but it has yet to materialise.
On conclusion, Mr Green said: “I freely admit that these proposals would need to be taken forward and fine-tuned by government, in consultation with the relevant sectors.
“But taken as a whole, these proposals would put social care on a solid footing in this country. They would pave the way for better care for our older people – and eventually for all of us who need it.”
Mr Green was asked to resign from government in late 2017 following a row over misleading statements he made regarding his knowledge of pornographic material that had been downloaded onto his parliamentary computer. Mr Green maintains he did not download the material himself.