When free social care isn’t really free

Continuing my recent theme of social care funding (or lack of it), this story from the Financial Times website on Sunday – and oddly, not really picked up by anyone else – caught my eye.

In it, Lord Lipsey and Lord Joffe – 2 former members of the Royal Commission on Long Term Care – attack Gordon Brown’s plan for free personal care for all. They claim it would create ‘perverse incentives’ for people to stay in their own home, where they would have care for free, rather than going into a care home, where they would have to pay.

While these 2 have form here – their 1999 minority report rejected the Royal Commission’s proposal for free personal care, for instance – they do have a valid point.

In Scotland, where there is already free personal care (it isn’t totally free, as some think, but that is another blog for another day) the costs of it have far outstripped the initial estimates and there are fears over the sustainability of the policy.

The government reckons this policy would cost £670 million, but given the Scottish experience it could be far higher and, given the state of public finances currently, I’m struggling to work out where the money would come from without affecting other services.

Cynics might say that the policy is just an attempt to win votes at the next election – it is said that it was dropped into Gordon Brown’s conference speech at the last minute – but if it works, it could have adverse consequences for other social care services, something they can literally ill afford.

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