Majority of people unprepared for adult social care costs

Only 15 per cent of adults say they are making plans for how they will pay for care they might need in the future while half of English adults (50 per cent) say that they have never thought about how they will pay for care when they get older.


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The overwhelming majority of people have not made any plans for how they will pay for adult social care in older age, national public polling by the Local Government Association reveals.

The LGA is calling on the Government to lead a national campaign to heighten the profile and reputation of adult social care after the findings of the poll raised concerns about the public’s understanding and preparedness for the costs associated with adult social care.

Unlike the NHS, which is free at the point of need, social care is means tested and what you contribute to the cost of your care depends on the care setting and your level of assets and savings. Across the UK, 44 per cent of people in care homes pay the full cost of their care themselves, and more than a quarter (26 per cent) pay the full cost of their homecare.

Yet a public poll by BritainThinks, carried out for the LGA and published today, found that only 15 per cent of adults say they are making plans for how they will pay for care they might need in the future while half of English adults (50 per cent) say that they have never thought about how they will pay for care when they get older.

Social care and support is about helping people to live the lives they want to lead. It binds our communities, supports our NHS and makes an essential contribution to our national economy. However, years of significant underfunding of councils, coupled with rising demand and costs for care and support, have combined to push adult social care services to breaking point.

The LGA estimates that adult social care services face a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025, just to maintain existing standards of care, while latest figures show that councils in England receive 1.8 million new requests for adult social care a year – the equivalent of over 5,000 a day.

The findings of the poll also reveal a concerning lack of awareness about these vital services, which may partly explain why people aren’t making provision for the cost of their future needs.

Half of English adults (48 per cent) say that they have little to no understanding of what the term ‘social care’ means, compared to just 13 per cent of people in England who said they did know what the term ‘social care’ means and feel that they have a good understanding of what it is. Staggeringly, 5 per cent of people have never heard of the term ‘social care’ at all.

Forty-four per cent of people think that social care is provided by the NHS and 28 per cent think that it is free at the point of access.

Following the Government’s decision to delay its green paper on adult social care, the LGA published its own green paper consultation to drive forward the public debate on what sort of care and support we need to improve people’s wellbeing and independence, the need to focus on prevention work, and, crucially, how we fund these vital services. It will publish interim findings next month.

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:

“This polling raises real concerns over how prepared people are for their own care needs, or the care of their loved ones.

“Half of the public polled have little or no understanding of what social care means, whilst only 15 per cent of people are making plans to pay for their care in later life, with those from poorer social backgrounds half as likely to have a plan in place compared to those in wealthier social circumstances.

“Over recent years, councils have protected adult social care relative to other services. But the scale of the overall funding picture for local government as a whole means adult social care services still face a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025, just to maintain existing standards of care. The likely consequences of this are more and more people being unable to get quality and reliable care and support, which enables them to live more fulfilling lives.

“The LGA is calling on the Government to lead a national campaign to heighten the profile and reputation of adult social care.

“If we are to truly tackle adult social care, we must aspire to social care having a similar ‘national treasure’ status as the NHS, with similar levels of awareness and understanding about what social care is and why it matters.

“With low public awareness of social care and people’s preparedness for how to pay for it, it is more important than ever that the Government get on and publish their green paper, start a massive campaign to raise awareness of what social care is and don’t duck the big issues on funding. We need bold solutions and we need them now.”

Polling information breakdown

  • BritainThinks conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,741 English adults aged 18+. The survey was conducted online between 28th-30th September 2018 and weighted to be nationally representative by age, gender, region and SEG.
  • Results are available upon request.
  • Half (50 per cent) of English adults say that they have never thought about how they will pay for care when they get older, with only 15 per cent saying they have made any plans for how they will pay for this care.
  • Half (48 per cent) of English adults say that they have little to no understanding of what the term ‘social care’ means.
  • 44 per cent of people think that social care is provided by the NHS (with a further 26 per cent who didn’t know if it was or not) and 28 per cent think that it is free at the point of access – with significant proportions also saying that they don’t know whether these are the case.
  • More than a quarter of adults (28 per cent) say that it is true that social care is free for everyone who needs it, as it is paid through the tax system, with a further 28 per cent unsure whether this was the case or not.
  • Those from the highest social grades (AB) are most likely to say that they are making plans, with a quarter (24 per cent) saying that this is the case. This compares to 12 per cent of those in the C1/C2 social grades and 10 per cent of those in the DE social grades.

LGA adult social care green paper

  • The LGA’s green paper is available here. The consultation closed on 26 September.
  • The LGA will respond to the findings in a further publication in the autumn, which will be used to influence the Government’s own expected green paper and Spending Review.

Bright Futures

'The lives we want to lead'
The LGA green paper for adult social care and wellbeing

Adult social care and support matters. High quality social care and support helps people live the life they want to live. It helps bind our communities, it sustains our NHS and it provides essential economic value to our country.

Find out more