Health Secretary Matt Hancock has promised a £3.5bn cash boost to support the social care system as he begins his campaign to become the UK’s next prime minister. He has also called for a state-backed insurance scheme to fund social care in the future.
In an interview the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said he would seek the extra funds in the next Spending Review. The social care sector has in recent years received a number of cash injections, including £650m announced in the 2018 Autumn Budget, however the Health Secretary said “we can’t go on with one-year-at-a-time top-ups”.
He said the idea for an insurance scheme was the centre-piece of the government’s long-delayed social care Green Paper and a “priority” in his own campaign. He also described the current social care system as “unsustainable” and said there’s a “whole number of injustices” affecting society’s most vulnerable people.
“One of the biggest injustices is that for people who worked hard all their lives and have put money aside – the system penalises them and won’t fund their care without them having to sell the house, whereas people who haven’t put money aside get their care supported. I think this is very unfair,” he added.
Previous attempts to persuade the insurance market to offer cover for social care costs have been unsuccessful due to the potential size and unpredictability of the bills involved.
He emphasized that the payments could be made over many years of a working life.
The proposal, which would be made voluntary, would require all workers over 40 to contribute 2.5% of their wages.
“I’d like to see people encouraged to take it out when they get their first mortgage – that being the point where many people buy life insurance,” the minister said.
In response Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation and Chair of the Health for Care campaign, said:
“Well done Matt Hancock for recognising and promising to address the greatest social crisis of our time. What a shame the outgoing Prime Minister failed to deliver her promise to fix the tragedy that is social care.
“Although we have had too many unfulfilled promises in this area, we now call on the other candidates in the race to be Prime Minister to pledge that they will make this an urgent priority for their administration.
“The Health for Care campaign will continue to call on all politicians to come together and agree to shore up the current service, agree radical reform and a long-term funding settlement. Millions of the most vulnerable people and their family carers deserve nothing less – they have waited long enough.”