What should we think about ‘the Four Seasons story’?

Like lots of people with an interest in social care I have been following the travails of Four Seasons over the last few days. For anyone not up to speed, Four Seasons is a major care home provider in this country, with some 17,000 predominantly older residents and 25,000 staff. Four Seasons is now reportedly in financial difficulty and the regulator of the social care sector, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), has called for its biggest creditor to confirm that it will stand behind the company and not allow it to collapse. [Although it has since won a reprieve  until April 2018, the uncertainty over its longer-term future continues]. 

Continue reading “What should we think about ‘the Four Seasons story’?”

We are living on borrowed time in saving social care for older people

632x305_woman_mug

Over the past year the chorus of voices calling for more funding for social care has become increasingly unanimous and urgent. Age UK’s new report, The Health and Care of Older People in England, provides stark evidence of the suffering that many older people with care needs are experiencing, and of the need for immediate action to avert system collapse.
Continue reading “We are living on borrowed time in saving social care for older people”

‘Stuck in the middle’ – Self funders in care homes

440x210_care_home

If you’ve ever made a massive purchase like buying a home or taken out a large loan or mortgage, as you picked up the pen to sign on the dotted line, you might well have had your doubts about whether you’d really read and understood all the small print. Moving into a care home is another one of those huge decisions, with major consequences if you get it wrong. So it’s just as vital to understand what you’re signing.

Yet moving into a care home is frequently a hurried and pressurised decision, which for many comes after a spell in hospital. People are often ill, facing the stress of living with new levels of disability and confronting the reality of losing their home, community and identity. Some will also have reduced mental capacity. At times like these reading the small print is often not a priority and, in any case, many people are faced with limited options so can feel they have no choice but to agree to the home’s terms and conditions. Continue reading “‘Stuck in the middle’ – Self funders in care homes”

Building a savings culture

Photo credit: Images_of_Money (Flickr Creative Commons)

Last month Age UK held a small discussion event with Pensions Minister Ros Altmann, hosted by the think tank Reform. The purpose of the meeting was to have a frank conversation with representatives from the pensions industry, consumer groups and trade unions about the need for more people to save more for their retirements.  Continue reading “Building a savings culture”

The delayed spending cap – next steps

The decision to delay, and possibly abandon, implementation of the lifetime cap on spending on care, is a retreat from a commitment that the Government made in its manifesto for the last Election. As a result, the risk of endlessly spiralling care bills remains and for as long as no cap is in place older people with assets will justifiably worry that they could be ‘wiped out’ financially if they are unlucky enough to need long term care. It is very disappointing that after all the efforts of the Dilnot Commission to come up with a solution so that older people could have peace of mind, this problem remains.

It should not be overlooked that the Government’s announcement also delays the implementation of two other important commitments.

First, although the Government’s decision not to implement the lifetime spending cap received the most attention, a second decision announced at the same time will actually adversely affect more people. It was that they would not be raising to £118,000 the maximum level of assets that are taken into account in deciding whether people must pay for their own care, as originally planned. Continue reading “The delayed spending cap – next steps”

Care cap delayed

The implementation of a lifetime spending cap on the amount an individual would spend on care was a flagship of the former coalition government’s social care policy, and a manifesto commitment for the present government. However implementation of the spending cap, originally intended for April 2016, has now been delayed until 2020. This means after the next election, so this delay raises considerable doubts about whether the cap will ever be implemented at all.

Age UK supported the proposed spending cap in principle and still does, but as we have said before, the devil is in the detail. For example the Dilnot Commission on long term care funding, which thought up the idea of the cap, originally set the cap at £35,000- £50,000, which was carefully calculated to ensure that the less well off would benefit. This objective was undermined by the government’s decision to raise the cap to £72,000.

Now that details of the scheme have emerged – with draft regulations being published only just before the election – it has become clear that the top priority must be to stop the social care system that millions of older people depend on from collapsing in its entirety.The most urgent priority arises from the current situation where cash strapped local authorities have restricted care to the point where over a million older people who are unable to carry out at least one vital activity of daily living without difficulty (for example using the toilet, getting dressed) receive no care whatsoever. Continue reading “Care cap delayed”

How do we make prevention real?

 Leslie, 95, and his granddaughter Wendy.

Two weeks ago, despite it being one of the first warm evenings of the year, a sizeable crowd gathered for the most recent in our series of Tavistock Square Debates tackling the big issues across health and care for older people.  And this debate posed one of the toughest questions yet: “How do we make prevention real?”

Whether we are talking about preventing ill health in the first place or helping people stay well and manage a condition, we all agree prevention is better than cure. Likewise there is little argument that we should aim to prevent a crisis wherever possible.

However, in practice the case for investment and shifting resources ‘upstream’ is not always easy to make. In the light of the renewed emphasis on preventive approaches set out in the NHS Forward View and the Care Act, we asked our expert panel their views on what it would really take to break the cycle of short term targets and siloed budgets; to move from words to action.

Continue reading “How do we make prevention real?”