Social care funding has long been the problem that governments refused to confront. An ageing population has placed growing strains on the care system, without the means to pay for it. In this context, the Care and Support Bill, now making its way through Parliament, represents a substantial achievement. The reforms contained in the bill mark the most significant changes to social care in a generation, including the first ever cap on the lifetime cost of care.
Unlocking the Potential seeks to build on those reforms. It examines how likely the Government is to succeed in fostering a new market in long-term care products and explores additional policy measures to facilitate more forward planning. The fundamental argument is that the Care and Support Bill will not be enough on its own to produce a step change in the way people plan for social care. Policy must also draw on behavioural economics to spur people into action.
The report recommends various ways of achieving a more complete agenda for social care funding, based on a more accurate understanding of human behaviour. These include a financial ‘health-check’ for individuals before they first withdraw from the state pension; a simplified means test, to make it easier for people to determine their eligibility; and ‘care accounts’ to provide stronger incentives for planning ahead. In so doing, it holds out the potential for a fairer, more effective system in the future.