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Adrian Boulding: Social care crisis needs our sector’s skills

Boulding-Adrian-2012-700x450.jpgIn those maelstrom couple of weeks between the snap general election being called and the publication of the manifestos, the Conservatives rushed together their thoughts on the difficult and complicated issue of how the one in six people that end up needing care in old age will pay for it.

A measure intended to reassure the electorate the party had the issue in their sights and would deliver a fair solution failed to land as they wanted it to. Despite clarifications of their stance, the issue has been marked down by political commentators as one of the low points of the election campaign.

Now, without a working majority, the Government has gone back to the drawing board. In the Queen’s Speech, Her Majesty simply said: “My ministers will work to improve social care and will bring forward proposals for consultation.”

One of the major unsolved issues for our country received less space as the Government set out its plans for the next two years than was given to the forthcoming visit of King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain.

The stark truth is that social care does not lend itself to sound-bite politics. But the problem does need the skills our industry has in abundance:

1: We are good at moving money across a customer’s lifetime, from years of high earnings potential to later years where expenditure will exceed income.

2: We have, for hundreds of years, been moving money between people that at the outset of an insurance policy seemed to be a homogenous cohort but for whom the vagaries of time meant one of them incurred a large cost.

3: We are quietly adept at talking to families and helping them to manage the transition of resources between the generations

4: Albeit only recently, our industry has embraced the concept of behavioural science and our best players have developed consummate skills in delivering solutions that work with the way people do things, not the way one might think they should do.

The challenges are formidable. Social care is not something people want to think about, as the inability to carry out tasks of daily living sounds rather unappetising.

When they do turn their attention to it, it often comes as a complete shock that the taxes and National Insurance they have been paying for years will not cover all their social care needs.

Once discharged from hospital with a long-term chronic condition, people have to pay their own way, with just means-tested support from an increasingly hard pressed local authority.

The symbiotic relationship between the generations is very delicate. The older generation has a strong bequest motive and the younger generation delivers many hours of loving care that can drastically reduce their own freedom and quality of life, but which is completely unpaid for.

At this point, I hope you have the same conclusion that I do; that the statement in the Queen’s Speech was the wrong way around. We need the Government to consult first on this issue and bring forwards proposals later. This will allow for the proper consideration of the ideas and solutions our industry can offer.

Adrian Boulding is director of retirement at TISA

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