The Southern Cross controversy brings into sharp focus the problem of looking after the old and vulnerable in our rapidly ageing society. The whole country, including the care industry, eagerly awaits the report of the Dilnot Commission which is looking into the future funding of social care, but a few things are already clear from selected quotes to the press or at meetings with stakeholders.
Some of the most indicative of what to expect are phrases like: “the current system is unsustainable… no silver bullet… no appetite for compulsion… insurance industry not producing fit for purpose products” and many more. The commission has admitted that it will be difficult to find a single solution, and that the trick will be to find a balance between the state and the responsibility of the individual. With a final social care bill that could theoretically exceed the entire cost of health care, clearly the state cannot be expected to do it all even if had wanted to.
If the recommendation is that the state should take on greater financial responsibility for social care (unlikely I admit!), it might start to unravel the voluntary care giving of millions of unpaid carers which society desperately needs to nurture and grow. Higher taxes which would be the result would fall disproportionately on the young. And yet there will always be a need to protect the most vulnerable in society through some form of public financial support. The commission agrees with nearly all observers that the arbitrary cut off for support, currently £23,250, is unfair. It discourages those below or around the borderline to save, whilst those above the threshold face heavy charges and may lose their homes.