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Minority report

Ahead of the Dilnot Commission’s LTC report, Linstock consultant Tony Cox looks at the issues likely to affect the black and minority ethnic population

Tony Cox
Cox: ’The idea that you simply save for retirement and then buy an annuity or opt for some form of drawdown is simply unsustainable’

Going gaga, losing your marbles, not being able to look after yourself in old age? These are things most of us would rather forget when considering our social and financial future and as research last year by Aifa and Prudential showed, advisers and their clients seem reluctant to discuss these issues.

But as various studies have shown, the current and predicted demographic changes to the UK population mean we must tackle the issue of how we look after ourselves in later life. The idea that you simply save for retirement and then buy an annuity or opt for some form of drawdown is simply unsustainable.

The number of people in the UK aged 65 and over increased by 1.7 million between 1984 and 2009, a growth from 15 per cent to 16 per cent of the population. By 2034, this proportion is projected to rise to 23 per cent. The impact of these demographic changes on the long-term care sector, including product providers, advisers and carehome owners, will be profound.

The Dilnot Commission is expected to report in July and is likely to make wide-ranging recommendations for changes to how we fund LTC.

But the LTC sector requires a detailed understanding not only of the aging demographic but of the changing aspirations, needs and cultural nuances of older people in the future. Most importantly, the people who will require LTC in the future need to have their voices heard today.

The danger is that one significant demographic issue ethnicity could get lost in the desire to address the needs of all.

The UK’s black and minority ethnic population is growing even faster than the wider population. BME groups totalled 8.7 per cent of the UK’s population in 2001 and the latest census, which Linstock has helped promote, is expected to show a big rise. The figure is projected to rise further to 16.3 per cent in 2016, 20.1 per cent by 2026 and 27 per cent in 2051.

Unless policymakers consider issues specific to the BME population as they explore the future of LTC, the very real danger is that the UK’s rapidly growing minority ethnic groups will be left facing a social care system that does not understand them and is ill-prepared to provide for them. Commercial opportunities will be lost and social justice will suffer.

To explore these issues, Linstock and research partner Stimulating World carried out research into the views of ethnic minorities on LTC.

We undertook focus groups with people of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian and Black Caribbean ethnicity as well as a group with white mainstream participants.

Our research reveals that BME groups’ attitudes to caring for family, and perceptions of social care differ considerably from the mainstream views held by the white British population.

There is a strong emphasis on caring for elderly relatives as a duty. First generation arri-vals within their communities frown on the idea of sending elderly relatives to a care home.

But among second generation BME groups, while there is still a very strong family bond, the influence and adoption of a western lifestyle places extra pressures and strains on the traditional care models within these communities. Full-time careers and lifestyle choices see them away from home more regularly.

At the same time, elderly members of the BME population in need of care are increasingly insisting that their children don’t look after them.”

Mobile western societies have been grappling with these stresses and strains for some time, so their emergence among upwardly mobile BME groups is no surprise.

The research reveals that the stigma attached to placing relatives in social care among these BME communities is unlikely to erode at the same rate as the traditional family model. This will create a gap in the ability of BME communities across Britain to provide or access appropriate care. This presents a challenge for social policy, a market for care home providers and an extra consideration for advisers who are working with clients from ethnic minorities.

Many people among the ethnic groups we interviewed believe that existing care homes and the LTC sector as a whole do not meet their cultural, religious and dietary needs.

Three things need to happen. First, policymakers need to seek advice from BME groups and those who work with them to understand their particular needs.

Second, the LTC sector needs to understand the way in which they are perceived by ethnic minority groups in order that they can improve the sensitivity of their services and product offerings. Finally, the industry needs to consider how it can better communicate with BME communities in order to break down the stigma that exists about the services that it provides.

So what is the message for advisers and the wider finance industry? First, you should look to develop and expand your offering to ethnic minority backgrounds to take advantage of this rapidly growing sector. Second, as the Aifa/Prudential report recommended, future requirements such as LTC should be signposted as part of defining and implemen-ting a specific at retirement proposition.

It is an opportunity that the industry would be gaga to ignore.


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