A new report commissioned by Age UK highlights the different approaches to long-term care across a group of countries in the developed world, and how they compare to the system in England.
The Incisive Health report ‘An international comparison of long-term care funding and outcomes: insights for the social care green paper’ set out to explore key characteristics and outcomes of the social care systems operating in some other advanced nations, with a view to seeing what lessons could be learned and potentially applied here in England. The other countries were Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Japan.
The findings suggest that creating a sustainable social care system fit for a rapidly ageing population is a challenge in every one of these countries, which none has completely overcome. However, most of the countries featured in the report have grasped the nettle and implemented significant reforms during the last 25 years. For example, Germany began to modify its system in 1995 and Japan in 2000. Over the same period, despite two Government consultations, two official Commissions, five Green or White Papers and one Act of Parliament, England’s system of means tested care funding is broadly unchanged.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “Sadly, this new report shows that England has been left behind in the race to update the funding of care for older people, compared to some other similar nations. As a result, our older people and their families are paying more and bearing a lot more of the risk of needing expensive long term care. What’s more, the freezing of thresholds and allowances in recent years has made our offer to older people in this country even stingier.
“The reality is that an entire generation of older people in England has lost out, given that Germany embarked on care funding reforms in 1995 and Japan in 2000. Here, we have had to make do with a succession of consultations gathering dust. It is crucial that the forthcoming Social Care Green Paper isn’t yet another failed exercise. The evidence from other countries is that a package of measures that significantly improve the care offer to older people attracts a lot more public support than something more timid – the public isn’t stupid and will demand good value in return for paying more. Our Government needs to take note and develop some exciting proposals that will really make a difference. Bringing our care system up to a decent standard and making it sustainable won’t happen overnight and as citizens we will all need to contribute to the cost in different ways, but if they can do it in these other countries surely we can here too. And the sooner we start the better.”