Local Government and Social Care Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:12 pm on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee 3:12 pm, 24th April 2019

Absolutely. We need integration on that level as well. The point is that these services are better joined up and delivered at a local level. It is an important role that local government has to play, and it is why local government’s hand should be strengthened in these matters.

In coming to our conclusions about long-term arrangements, the joint Select Committee inquiry looked at two very important bases. We went to Germany to see what existed there. Essentially, Germany’s model involves an extra percentage on the insurance payments that it get from the public. There was a cross-party agreement 20 years ago, and the rates in Germany have been raised with no dissent from the public or the parties. It is a system that works and that people agree with, because they know that the money goes into social care. That is what we looked at, and it helped form the basis of our conclusion.

We had a citizens assembly—it was a great experience. We selected around 50 people from all over the country. They met for two weekends in a hotel in Birmingham, and came to unanimous views about how we should deal with social care funding. The principles were clear: we should have a system similar to that of Germany, with a social care premium, as we recommended, but very importantly—the Treasury hates this—the money must be dedicated for social care. People are willing to pay more if they know where the money is going. That was a fundamental principle that was laid down. There was also the principle of universal and high-quality care, and the point was made that a well-paid and well-trained workforce was needed to deliver it.

We also said that there had to be fairness between the generations and that the social insurance premium should be paid only by people over 40. However, we thought that it was fair to say that people of pensionable age who work should also pay. Another issue that we felt needed to be dealt with was the unfairness of people losing their homes in some cases and of all their assets going to pay for social care. The suggestion was that we could bring in a floor and cap system to make sure that people do not pay anything up to a much higher level and do not pay any more beyond the cap. We can pay for that by simply taking a percentage of inheritance tax, so that everybody pays a bit towards the system. We thought that that was fair.

We also said that, ultimately, we want to work towards a system where social care—personal care—is actually free. We did not think that we were there yet, which was why we recommended these changes to begin with, but we thought that we could get there eventually. We said that the extra money coming in had to be on top of the existing local government system.

This is a very good report. Two Select Committees unanimously agreed how we should raise the money for social care in the future. I say to Members on both Front Benches: why bother with the Green Paper? They should produce the White Paper and get on with it. The solution is there. We have given it to Ministers and shadow Ministers. This is a very good proposal. Please get on and deliver it now for the future.