Long-term care provision: a chance for redemption

WHEN it comes to old age, it is not just the elderly who can get confused. For years, politicians, policy makers and economists alike have struggled to provide a sustainable solution to the problem of funding long-term care for elderly people in an ageing UK population. As part of this debate, the City of London Corporation last week published a discussion paper identifying the key role that the financial services industry must play if we are to resolve one of the most pressing issues of our time &ndash; not just in the UK but across the world.<br /><br />As anyone who has a relative in a care home knows, long-term care is costly and, unlike the NHS, it is by no means free to all users. However, of the &pound;19bn the UK currently spends on long term care every year, 65 per cent is provided by the public sector, &pound;7bn of which goes towards people aged 65 plus. Due to our ageing population and ever-increasing life expectancy &ndash; not to mention the soaring cost of care services &ndash; the total public expenditure on long-term care, in England alone, could reach &pound;24.1bn by 2026.<br /><br />In short, the UK will be soon be looking after more people, who will require more money, for more time.&nbsp; The current system is clearly unsustainable. We simply cannot afford the massive costs such a commitment will entail. Unfortunately there are no easy answers. The government&rsquo;s recent Green Paper &ldquo;Shaping the Future of Care Together&rdquo;, is a step forward and has placed this critical issue at the forefront of the political agenda. Now is a time for in-depth consideration and deliberation &ndash; any decision we take must be subject to careful and transparent debate if we are to reach a fair and optimal solution that benefits all parties.<br /><br />The City of London Corporation&rsquo;s latest discussion paper, authored by Professor Les Mayhew, a professor at City University&rsquo;s Cass Business School, makes it clear the financial services industry must play a far greater role if we are to avert a full blown crisis in the years to come.&nbsp; Ironically, the much maligned banks, currently the focus of so much public anger, could be recast as a knight in shining armour, safeguarding the future health and prosperity of millions of Britons. However, any potential public/private partnership of this nature requires legislative certainty &ndash; businesses must have confidence that the system in which they are operating is clearly defined and immune from short-term political considerations. <br /><br />It is incumbent on politicians of all parties to create such a system.<br /><br />If they succeed, the financial services industry will have an opportunity to show its positive side, to repair its reputation and to forge a new relationship with the people of Britain &shy;&ndash; a relationship built on trust and social utility rather than accusations and recriminations. If this more certain framework is not established, the wellbeing of millions of elderly UK residents will be placed in jeopardy.<br /><br />Ian Luder is Lord Mayor of the City of London.