As has been said, time and time again, the UK population is ageing and we need to look to build a system which acknowledges and caters to these demographic changes.
One area currently in the spotlight is care, as the new Bill works to bring together various disparate pieces of legislation to create a robust framework which is fit for purpose, both now and in the future.
We have come a long way from the draft Bill, which failed to mention financial advice in any form, to the Bill which is being debated in the House of Lords at the moment. Currently, the Bill suggests councils will have a duty of care to refer people to information and advice on how to access independent financial advice.
Although this is obviously an excellent idea, the omission of the word ‘regulated’ means councils can refer people to charities and advocacy services such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or the Money Advice Service. While these services are useful when it comes to financial guidance, they do not necessarily have the breadth of knowledge a specialist qualified intermediary has, nor can they actually advise people what to do and guide them through the process.
To ensure people have this support, Lord Lipsey and Baroness Greengross are currently championing the cause for regulated advice as the Bill passes through the House of Lords. However, health minister Earl Howe has rejected similar calls as he has suggested this should be included in the statutory guidance rather than the Bill itself.
This reluctance appears to stem from the Government’s belief that while regulated independent financial advice has a role to play, not all self-funders may need this level of support.
So where to next? While the industry will continue to fight hard to ensure the word regulated does appear on the face of the Bill – and we have by no means given up on this goal – we are focused on winning the war rather than just this battle. Essentially, we want people who need to fund their own long-term care to receive regulated independent financial advice.
While we will campaign for the inclusion of the word regulated, we are also working hard to engage with the Government in other forums. Indeed, many providers are currently drafting responses to the Department of Health consultation document ‘Caring for Our Future’ which considers how some of the key Care Bill proposals should be implemented.
In addition, they are looking to engage with stakeholders via other forums to ensure they understand how providing access to this type of advice also benefits them. And this is where the adviser community can become involved.
By gaining relevant qualifications and actively looking to forge links with the aforementioned stakeholders, advisers can help to illustrate why regulated financial advice is vitally important to support a vibrant, and perhaps even more importantly, a solvent social care sector.
The reputation of the financial services industry has suffered over the last few years creating a climate of mistrust. The more we engage with local government and show the value of what we offer, the more local support we will gain.
Nye Jones is development director of care at Partnership