It seems as hard as we look, whether a government official, a civil servant, professor of economics or the everyday person in the street, the elusive remains out of reach.
The elusive I speak of is the holy grail solution to the huge and widening gap between the finances available, and the costs of the growing need in the adult health and social care system.
During some discussions with various people over the past few weeks and months, it seems the solution to a problem that has been long in the making, is no closer to us, and the stark reality dawns with blinding reality. There is no magic money tree in the PM’s back garden, nor is there a sufficient dividend in Brexit, or any other fish juggle that politicians would have you believe. The reality is, it will be for a generation to suck it up, and pay into a solution which will replace solid foundations in our health and social care systems for the future generations that follow us.
We have to accept, that the new normal will be to pay for the care we want to receive, whether that care is delivered by private companies, or the third sector providers, the costs will need to be met, and we all need to start to take that on board.
I guess for those accessing the system now, its too late, and they are going to have to draw on the ever decreasing funds available, but for me, my generation, and those that follow, we need to tackle the situation with robust honesty, and resolve in our heads that we need to put more in, if we ever expect to draw out of the system.
Suggestions have been mooted, late last week, from MP’s tasked with looking into this issue, that a new National Insurance Premium, or some sort of care bond might be the solution, forced upon those aged 40 plus for example, much like the Auto-Enrollment pension was forced upon everyone a few years ago, ensuring that payments are made into a ring fenced pot, which will boost the budget in the hardest hit areas of health and social care funding. I am not opposed to the idea, of course no-one likes to pay more “tax”, of course they don’t, but we do seem to have been able to wrap our heads around the need to make provision for our later lives by way of a pension, so why not apply the same thought process to care funding?
Someone has to pay it, the government cant or won’t from current budgets, those who can afford it pay for it now, via private providers, so is it a huge leap to expect the rest of us to think the same way, and stump up for the later life care that we will surely feel that we deserve?
I don’t have the answers, and as I said, from what I can see and read, nor does anyone else. But it does seem obvious from where I am sitting and working, alongside older people struggling to meet the private costs of care, and being dissatisfied with what the state can afford to provide, that we have to accept that the solution might be that we all need to pay a little bit more each month, through NI, TAX or another scheme of deduction, so that we, and those that follow don’t have the same worries and fears.
Would it really be that bad to have a little less each moth now, with a certainty of comfort and care as we get much older? A bit like a saving scheme if you will, putting a little bit by each month.
I guess attitudes to paying for care need to change, and I think we have a duty to try to change attitudes sooner rather than later. Each new service that is created within our local Age UK, here in Medway, is created on the basis of full cost recovery. We calculate the total costs of the service, and break that down into a unit cost, so that we can have a clear and robust pricing policy. Our services all, with the exception of one remaining contract, generate their own income, sufficient to cover all costs, and make a small contribution to the centre of the organisation, to pay for the people behind the scenes that keep the wheels turning.
In our local community, people are used to this way of social business, finding a provider of the services you need, asking about the price, and making their own assessment based upon quality, reputation and affordability. It seems increasingly accepted, that this is the way forward, and it is a way that puts our customers in charge. If services don’t meet their expectations, they walk away, go somewhere else, they vote with their feet, much like we all do everyday in the high street shops.
So the tide is starting to turn, people are beginning to understand, that they must pay for care, now and into the future.