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One year on from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge that no one in the future would have to sell their home to pay for their own social care, new analysis from Age UK has found that every day, 14 people exhaust their assets paying for care.

This finding was published on the 23rd of July – one year on from the Prime Minister’s statement on the steps of No 10 Downing Street that he would fix social care and ensure no one in future would have to sell their home to fund help they cannot live without.

In England in 2018/19, the latest year for which figures are available, 5,190 people were classified as ‘self-funders with depleted funds’, a term which Age UK describes as people who had run down their savings and assets until they had virtually nothing left because of having to pay for care.

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This represents a sharp increase of more than a third in the numbers of people classified as self-funders, compared to the previous year.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director for Age UK said: “Chronic underfunding put social care on its knees before Covid-19 came roaring in so it was in no position to withstand the battering the virus dealt out.

“Tragically, there have been an estimated 30,000 excess deaths of older people living in care homes during the pandemic, a shocking number that shames us all. “

In the absence of social care reform, significant numbers of older people and their families are being forced to spend staggering amounts for support that is essential for them to carry on living.

In England, 167,000 older people and their families now have to fund their own care because they do not meet the means-test that qualifies them for free or subsidised support, Age UK has underlined. They spent more than £7 billion (£7,390,084,000) on care during the 12 months since the Prime Minister took office.

These revelations come at the same time as Age UK stages a ‘virtual hand in’ of its petition calling on the Government to stand by its commitment to fix social care and make it free at the point of use, fair and available for everyone who needs it. The petition was signed by 109,306 people before the pandemic struck.

Age UK is now calling on the Government to resolve the severe underfunding that afflicted social care before the pandemic arrived and which meant it was in no position to stand up to COVID-19 when it struck.

Caroline continued: “When he became Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to fix social care and make sure no one would have to sell their home to pay for it. Now, after all the loss and suffering caused by the pandemic it is more important than ever that he follows through.

“With 14 people a day being ruined due to sky high care bills and self-funders spending more than £7 billion on care in a year it’s clear that the unlucky individuals who need care face far too high a price. The obvious solution is for us all to share the risk of developing care needs by paying into a national fund, like we do with the NHS.”

Recently, there has been growing speculation that the government may bring social care under the control of NHS England, with the Guardian reporting on 27 July that Downing Street has brought in Camilla Cavendish, former policy chief under David Cameron, to assist in finalising proposals to fix social care.

However, the rumours of a merger between social care and the NHS were denied on Monday night by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

A change to the social care system, and how funding is allocated to individuals, could mean huge changes to how assistive technology services are commissioned and delivered.

In a recent report from ADASS – ‘Nine Statements to Help Shape Adult Social Care Reform’ – it notes that whilst the coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on the social care sector, there is now an opportunity to rethink and redesign an appropriate social care system.

ADASS suggests that, going forwards, there should be public agreement on prevention approaches to help reduce strain on the social care sector and empower people to take action themselves.

The charity also says care should be focused around the individual, instead of being built around organisations and buildings, such as hospitals and care homes. Rather than a national approach, focusing on helping people to stay independent in their own homes or in specialist housing should be the priority, the report outlines.

ADASS adds: “Individuals will no longer have to routinely access care via hospitals, which will instead be able to focus on acute and emergency care. NHS primary and community-based care will routinely come to people in their own homes and utilise the latest technological developments to enable more remote care.

“The primary role of the local authority, through social work will be to advise and advocate with people, to commission and coordinate care that works for individuals, their families, and carers, to join up support with health and housing, and to safeguard people at risk. This will fundamentally shift how we access and experience care.”

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