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09 Dec 2021

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A better future for social care – an option from left field

By guest blogger BOB FERGUSON

On current form, those who are waiting impatiently for the Green Paper to signpost how adult social care will fare in the years ahead have a better chance of meeting Godot. In fact, assuming the Government does ever get around to publishing its proposals, it will have had quite enough trouble finding a sustainable source of funding for the long term. Consequently, hopes for something more fundamental – sustainability defined to include structural reform – are bound to collide with political reality. For the time being, at least.

In light of the charade of the Brexit withdrawal agreement negotiations, the notion that there could be a cross-party solution now seems delusional. More likely, as the current government self-destructs, there could be a resolution by general election – possibly sooner rather than later.

It may be fanciful to expect adult social care to be lined up alongside the railways and the public utilities as another target for nationalisation in a Labour manifesto. That said, don’t rule out a commitment to at least take greater control over how it is delivered, focusing particularly on operators that make a lottery out of an area of activity where balance sheets should be nothing less than, to echo a now devalued phrase, strong and stable. Would anyone be surprised if it flagged up plans to exclude the business models operated by hedge fund and private equity owners?

They might also seek to cast light into some of the more obscure corners of financing at the maxi end of the scale. For example, how a large care home group that had complained consistently about facing a “perfect storm” induced by inadequate levels of public funding still managed, the Financial Times reported, to pay healthy cash dividends.

The Guardian’s financial editor summed it up neatly: “Financial engineers and junk bond opportunists should not be the natural owners and funders of large care home companies. Far better to get more pension fund money, seeking lower but more stable returns, through the door.”

Certainly, if residents are to be guaranteed security and peace of mind, continuing with the mixture as before does not appear to be the optimum prescription. There will be voices that argue for the status quo; on no account must they be allowed to drown out, far less suppress, the discussion of alternatives.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

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