I know so many of us have faced tough challenges and difficult decisions when it comes to the care of our friends and loved ones. I recognise that the social care system could be working better both for those who use it and for those caring for others.
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Westminster Hall debate on social care due to prior Parliamentary commitments. However, I will study the debate and any briefing provided for it very carefully.
The publication of the Government’s Adult Social Care Reform White Paper last year set out a ten-year vision for care that puts people and families at its heart. Its core principles are to ensure that everyone has choice, control and support to live independent lives; that everyone can access outstanding personalised care and support and that social care is fair and accessible for everyone.
The White Paper is part of wider social care plans, backed by £5.4 billion, which for the first time provides a limit to the cost of care for everyone in the adult social care system, and significantly increases state support.
On 22 September, the Government published Our Plan for Patients. As part of this strategy, the Government announced a £500 million Adult Social Care Discharge Fund to support discharge from hospital into the community, to bolster the social care workforce, and to free up beds for patients who need them.
The Chancellor recently made a number of spending commitments at the Autumn Statement to put the adult social care system in England on a stronger financial footing and improve the quality of and access to care for many of the most vulnerable in our society. The Government will make available up to £2.8 billion in 2023-24 in England and £4.7 billion in 2024-25 to help support adult social care and discharge.
This includes £1 billion of new grant funding in 2023-24 and £1.7 billion in 2024-25, further flexibility for local authorities on council tax and, having heard the concerns of local government, delaying the rollout of adult social care charging reform until October 2025.
£600 million will be distributed in 2023-24 and £1 billion in 2024-25 through the Better Care Fund to get people out of hospital on time into care settings, freeing up NHS beds for those that need them. A further £1.3 billion in 2023-24 and £1.9 billion in 2024-25 will be distributed to local authorities through the Social Care Grant for adult and children’s social care. Finally, £400 million in 2023-24 and £680 million in 2024-25 will be distributed through a grant ringfenced for adult social care which will also help to support discharge.
This is an important step on the journey to reforming social care in this country and giving more people the dignified care that we all want for our loved ones. I can assure you that I will be engaged in all discussions about these reforms and continue to represent the views of constituents.
Regarding suggestions that all care be free, I believe that a universal system of free care for all would be needlessly expensive when those who are wealthy enough to contribute to their care should do so. Under the new reforms, those who have assets below £20,000 will not have to pay anything for their care from their assets. However, people may still need to make a contribution towards their care costs from their income. I support these reforms, which ensure that those who can afford to will contribute more to their care. The Government published a consultation on the charging reforms earlier this year and its response to the consultation is available at the following address: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/operational-guidance-to-implement-a-lifetime-cap-on-care-costs
The level at which the state will cover a person’s care costs will be raised from £14,250 to £20,000. Anyone with assets between £20,000 and £100,000 will contribute to the cost of their care but will receive means-tested state support, an upper limit over four times higher than the current one.
I know that some people face real financial pressures each week or month after paying for their care. In order to allow people receiving means-tested support to keep more of their own income, the Government has unfrozen the Minimum Income Guarantee for those receiving care in their own homes, raising it in line with inflation. The Minimum Income Guarantee is reviewed annually, with the next review due in January 2023 and published in the Local Authority Circular.
From October 2025, anyone assessed by a local authority as having eligible care and support needs, either new entrants or existing social care users, will begin to progress towards the cap. Costs accrued before October 2025 will not count towards the cap. Before the cap comes into effect, local authorities will work to identify people who currently meet their care costs themselves, to ensure that they can begin progressing towards the cap from the point it comes into effect.
The Government's plan for health and social care will tackle persistent unfairness in the social care system. Under the current system, people who fund their own care often pay more than people who are funded through their local authority for equivalent care. It is therefore encouraging that the Government will ensure that self-funders are able to ask their local authority to arrange their care for them so that they can find better value care. I welcome the fact that this has been reiterated in the Government's Adult Social Care Reform White Paper. The Government, with the support of local authorities, care providers and the wider sector, will aim to ensure that self-funders can access the same rates for care costs in care homes that local authorities pay.
As you may be aware, those receiving care themselves, or someone else such as a relative, may choose to make additional payments for a preferred choice of accommodation or care arrangement. I am told that the Government intends to change the regulations to enable everyone receiving local authority financial support to fund such top-ups for their own care. These top-up payments, on top of the cost specified in someone’s personal budget or independent personal budget, will not count towards the cap and will still be payable by the person once the cap has been reached.
The new reforms to social care will complement the existing system whereby people in need of residential care can defer payment of care home fees so they do not face the added stress of rushing to sell their home. This system has been in place since 2015 and means that people have the flexibility to avoid selling their home within their lifetime. As part of the process to build on the announcements made, the Government will be working to review the existing scheme in order to provide more flexibility for people to defer their care payments and ensure more people do not have to sell their homes in their lifetime.
While I understand that the £86,000 cap does not apply to the cost of accommodation and food, known as daily living costs, it will go a long way in helping with the general cost of care for those both in residential homes and in other care settings. Daily living costs are a notional amount to reflect that a proportion of residential care fees are not directly linked to personal care, like rent, food and utility bills and would have had to be paid wherever someone lives. For simplicity, daily living costs will be set at a national, notional amount of £200 per week.
Finally, domestic recruitment is being encouraged by the ‘Made with Care’ campaign which highlights the wide range of opportunities available to build a career in care and help others to live happy, healthy, fulfilling lives. Running until March 2023, campaign advertising will appear to millions across video-on-demand platforms such as ITV Hub, Sky Go and All 4; radio and digital audio channels such as Spotify; and social media and digital channels like Facebook and Instagram, to direct job seekers to www.adultsocialcare.co.uk. A further £15 million being allocated to help boost international recruitment of care workers.