Care after Coronavirus: An Emerging Consensus

May 22, 2020

 

When the coronavirus crisis first hit the UK, the greatest fear was that it would overwhelm the NHS. Ministers and clinicians had seen the catastrophic impact overseas – in first-rate health care systems such as Italy’s – and worried that hospitals here faced total collapse. Thanks to swift and concerted efforts, that fear has not been realised.

However, it is now clear that Covid-19 has hit hardest in this country’s care homes instead. New data from the Office for National Statistics shows that the number of deaths recorded in care homes in England and Wales this year is more than double the average from previous years. This is a national tragedy. Families across the country are grieving for loved ones.

But it is also perhaps the greatest opportunity for change in a generation. We can no longer delay finding a solution to the social care funding crisis. It is for this reason that Policy Exchange and IPPR, respectively the UK’s leading centre-right and progressive think tanks, have come together to seek a long-term solution to this important issue.

To help inform this debate we have worked with Hanbury Strategy, with support from the charity Independent Age, to poll a nationally representative sample of 2,475 British adults on their views on social care after the coronavirus. This short blog summarises six key findings from this polling.

 

1. There is a crisis in confidence in social care as a result of Covid-19

 There has been a non-trivial drop in the number of people who say they are likely to seek residential care for a relative, as a result of Covid-19. Around a third (31 per cent) of people polled said they were now less likely to want to put their relative in a care home. This share increased further (40 per cent) for people over the age of 65, when asked whether they would be more or less likely to seek residential care for themselves. This suggests that there has been a drop in confidence in social care as a result of the crisis.

 

Question: Are you more or less likely to want to seek residential care for an elderly relative than before coronavirus?

Much more likely
A bit more likely
Neither
A bit less likely
Much less likely
3%
8%
57%
12%
19%

 

Question: Are you more or less likely to seek residential care for yourself than before coronavirus

  Much more likely A bit more likely Neither A bit less likely Much less likely
All 3% 6% 56% 12% 22%
65+ 0% 1% 59% 12% 28%

 

2. The public recognise that we need to spend more on social care in the future

There is a consensus among voters that historically we have failed to invest enough in social care. Some 61 per cent feel that we have spent below what is required in recent years – rising to three-quarters of those people above the age of 65. Over half of those polled (53 per cent) agreed that we should spend more on care after Covid-19. This provides compelling evidence that the Government should prioritise a new funding deal for social care as we emerge from the crisis.

 

Question: Do you think spending on social care in recent years has been…?

Below what is needed About right Above what is needed Don’t know
61% 19% 6% 14%

 

Question: Do you think public spending on social care should increase or decrease when the coronavirus pandemic is over?

Increase Stay about the same Decrease Don’t know
53% 34% 6% 8%

 

3. They want care workers to receive a pay rise

‘Clap for carers’ has quickly become an important part of the week for many across the country. It is seen as a way of recognising the commitment and service of key workers in fighting Covid-19. But voters also believe that social care workers deserve a pay rise after the pandemic. Four in five agree that if additional funding is given to social care, some of it should be used to increase pay above the minimum wage.

 

Question: If more money were put into the system, would you agree that care workers should be paid more than the minimum wage?

Yes No Don’t know
80% 10% 10%

 

4. They are sceptical of voluntary insurance and using personal housing wealth as a way of achieving that

The public are clear that while social care needs more funding this should not come from voluntary private contributions (e.g. insurance schemes), as mooted by the Green Paper last year. Only 13 per cent support this solution. Likewise, they do not want to have to sell their house to fund care. Even less – at 4 per cent – would support such a proposal.

 

Question: How do you think an increase in social care spending should be paid for?

Private insurance schemes By selling the family home to pay for care
13% 4%

 

5. They support an extension of NHS principles: ‘free at the point of need and taxpayer funded’  

Instead nearly two-fifths of those polled support additional funding coming from general taxation, just like the NHS – with a further fifth supporting a ring-fenced social care tax. As Policy Exchange and IPPR – both of whom have published research arguing for social care to be taxpayer funded and largely free at the point of need – demonstrate, this is where a national consensus can be found.

 

Question: How do you think an increase in social care spending should be paid for? (continued)

General taxation, in the same way the NHS is funded

 

A new social care tax for all A new social care tax for the over 40s Don’t know
39% 19% 6% 19%

 

6. There is a growing cross-party consensus

Finally, what is most striking about our polling results is the degree of consensus across political parties. The Government has called for a cross-party approach towards finding a ‘new deal’ for social care. In a world of polarised politics, that has – at times – seemed overly optimistic and been met with scepticism. But across all of the key questions we asked, both Labour and Conservative voters agreed on almost every topic.

 

Question Labour Conservative
Thinks spending on social care has been below what is needed in recent years… 67% 64%
Thinks public spending on social care should increase when the coronavirus pandemic is over… 64% 52%
Thinks if more funding is put into social care that some of it should go towards a pay rise for care workers… 85% 80%
Thinks an increase in spending should not come from selling the family home… 4% 5%
Thinks an increase in spending should not come from a private insurance scheme… 10% 15%
Thinks an increase in spending should come from general taxation, just like the NHS… 45% 41%
Thinks an increase in spending should come from a new care tax for all… 22% 20%

 

Conclusion

Covid-19 has been a national tragedy – especially for those families with loved ones who have suffered in our social care system. We must now use this moment of national grief to build a brighter future: a future where people can grow old with dignity, and where those with complex needs get the support they need. A long-term cross-party solution for social care has eluded us for too long. As think tanks across the divide, Policy Exchange and IPPR say enough is enough. It is time to fix our social care system.

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