As the Tories unveil their plan for social care, does solving the crisis lie beyond the capabilities of the state?
YES – Sam Bowman, executive director of the Adam Smith Institute.
The Conservatives’ approach to social care will do damage because it punishes people who save for their old age. Paying for care, except for people with assets of over £100,000, will deter people from saving above that level, and have the wider effect of depriving the economy of funds for investment. The policy also creates a lottery that will severely cost people who contract dementia and similar diseases. Half of us will spend less than £20,000 on social care, but 10 per cent will face costs over £100,000. A combination of mandatory savings and insurance is the answer to make sure people can cover these costs. Savings accounts built up over our lives can cover the predictable costs that most people face; any that is left over when we die should pass, tax-free, to our children. And insurance, also paid for during our lives, for those people who develop serious illnesses that require expensive care that creates very high costs. The state-centric solution will not work.
NO – Chris Ham, chief executive of The King’s Fund.
Any problem is within the capabilities of government to solve – if the political will exists. Several reviews in recent years have offered solutions to the social care crisis and successive governments have failed to act on them. Now, the Conservatives have chosen to tinker with the existing, increasingly broken, system rather than face up to the difficult choices that need to be made to create sustainable social care funding. The immediate priority is for the government to provide extra resources to local authorities to bridge the funding gap of £2.1bn that will open up by 2020. The longer-term solution is to increase taxes to provide a sustainable funding settlement for the NHS and social care. The current political class lacks the vision to grapple with big societal challenges, consigning them to the “too difficult” box – especially when increases in spending and taxation are involved. Politics is crying out for a new Beveridge, able to rise above short-term electoral considerations and take the longer view.