(Title image: BBC Wales)
Paying for social care in light of an ageing population is an ongoing challenge. Yesterday, AMs were updated on Welsh Government thinking on how to address this.
Health & Social Services Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), said that despite social care being a priority for the Welsh Government – and the generous policies in terms of savings and asset allowances put in place in Wales – social care could need anything up to an additional £327million to maintain current provision.
While free social care remains an aspiration, it would cost an estimated £700million that the Welsh Government doesn’t have. Instead, finding new ways of funding care is the priority and tax rises aren’t ruled out.
“The inter-ministerial group is exploring options around: the introduction of funded non-residential care; a contribution towards the cost of residential care for those who pay the most; and the provision of funded personal care for anyone eligible.
“Taking forward any or all of the options that I’ve just summarised will require investment over and above the resources required to maintain current service levels. We have previously debated the possibility of raising taxes in Wales to generate resources for social care.”
– Health & Social Services Minister, Vaughan Gething
Shadow Social Services Minister, Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy) said pressure on budgets was undeniable, but the key to bringing costs down was early intervention and prevention. There were alternatives to a tax, such as giving councils more budget flexibility or adopting new models of delivery like the Buurtzorg model in the Netherlands (small teams of nurses working in a specific community).
Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) also stressed the need for preventative action, though he accepted there was a need for an “honest conversation” on taxes to pay for care. He also suggested the Minister over-estimated the cost of social care – which he believes would be around £250-350million – though the Minister explained his £700million figure included accommodation costs.
Finally, Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) repeated the case for a publicly-funded, free at the point of use National Care Services based on the NHS, reminding the chamber of the fight Aneurin Bevan had against naysayers when told the NHS was too difficult to establish.