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Sober stats produce a sinking feeling

By guest blogger JEF SMITH

When it’s said that a report makes ‘sobering reading’, I tend to reach for a stiff drink; bad news is almost always in the offing. That was precisely my reaction when I heard that the specialist financial services company, the Just Group, had brought out the 2019 edition of its annual survey of attitudes to social care policy among middle aged and elderly people in the UK. It’s available on line, but be warned – it contains little of comfort.

This series of reports has appeared since 2012, so a valuable data sequence is accumulating. One of the most alarming revelations this year is the decline of public interest in the funding of long term care; from a peak of nearly 70% of respondents in 2014, the proportion has now dropped to 55%. Will politicians react to this falling off of pressure, presumably from fatigue at an apparently unresolvable issue, by down-grading planning for care even further? The authors of the report relate the shift to Brexit’s taking up so much public and parliamentary attention, though surprisingly only half of respondents made that link.

The research was of course carried out before the Conservative Party leadership campaign, and that process had probably made the appearance of the Green Paper, which the report dolefully records has been delayed six times since 2016, even more remote. Care funding is getting some surprisingly positive mentions in the hustings, but the lavish promises of tax cuts made by the two remaining candidates have been estimated as costing something between ten and thirty billion pounds annually. These, added to the still incalculable costs of Brexit, will surely make allocating anything significant to social care all the harder.

Andrew Dilnot, the author of the 2011 report on care funding, was fond of pointing out that the £2bn required to finance his proposals, which were initially endorsed by the Coalition Government but later unceremoniously shelved, was pretty small beer when measured against GDP as a whole. His figures have of course inflated somewhat in the interim and in any case covered only some elements of what is really needed, but they still give some financial perspective to care’s comparatively modest demand on public funds.

One of the saddest pages in the Just Group’s report details the numerous – generally negative – political announcements on social care funding since 1999 on the same chart as a line showing the increase in the over 85 population in the first forty years of this century. By 2040 – and we’re nearly half way there – that number will have almost quadrupled; policy meanwhile has virtually stalled.

Sobering – but yes, I think I’ll have that drink now please.

  • 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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