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Social care funding needs hard figures

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According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of UK citizens aged over 85 will more than double by 2033, reaching 3.2 million and accounting for 5% of the total population.

The median age of the population will rise to 40 by the same year. And 23% of the population will be aged 65 and over compared with 18% who will be aged 16 and younger.

Latest NHS Information Centre data reveals spending on adult non-residential care went up 6% last year.

Such stark figures underline the importance of a coherent strategy on social care funding.

But as commentators point out in these pages, neither the Conservatives nor Labour has yet come up with plans for the system-wide reform needed.

With the social care green paper consultation yet to close and the Conservatives making noises about insurance-based systems, there is reason to be hopeful.

But politicians must remember that time is not on their side and avoid flashy point-scoring exercises at the expense of workable policy.

Labour has promised that if it is returned to power in the general election its National Care Service will be under way by mid-September 2010.

This in itself is enough to bring directors of adult social services out in a cold sweat.

To plan for the financial challenges ahead – whatever the colour of the next government – town halls need costed explanations of how these policies will work, and how they fit into the wider care agenda.

Local government will be hoping that both the Department of Health and the Conservatives will respond positively to invitations from the sector for discussions to put meat on the bones of these ideas.

Only then can planning for the future begin in earnest.

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