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If the UK Government reforms social care, it could boost the economy by £6 billion to £20 billion, including £1-4 billion in income tax.

These new findings from disability charity Leonard Cheshire, based on economic modelling from Frontier Economics, show social care has the potential to pay for itself, with previous studies from The Health Foundation indicating an additional £2-12.2 billion is needed annually to bridge the social care funding gap.

More widely available social care would allow many disabled people to increase their income through entering work, progress existing careers or increase their working hours. More importantly, it would empower disabled people to live their lives as they choose.

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The government’s focus to date has been making social care work for people aged 65 plus. This is despite a third of all people who draw on social care being aged 18-64, the charity highlights.

Leonard Cheshire’s new campaign, Care for Equality, aims to highlight the empowering potential of social care for working-age disabled adults. The charity is calling on the government to urgently invest in care and work with disabled people to ensure social care reforms offer them choices and personalised options, so it fully meets their needs.

Leonard Cheshire Director of Policy Gemma Hope commented: “Disabled people have a right to social care, so we look forward to hearing how the government will make it work better for everyone who needs it. So many of us will need the extra support social care can provide in our lifetime. It’s in everyone’s interests for social care reform to be delivered as a priority.

“The Autumn’s Comprehensive Spending Review is an opportunity for some serious investment. This is about more than money though. Disabled people must be involved in how social care is reformed to ensure any new system offers choice and the chance for person-centred care. We hope that our new data is a wake-up call for the government.”

Additionally, Leonard Cheshire is asking the government to reform how care staff are paid and to fund training.

The charity’s research uncovered claims that current assessment processes lack an in-depth understanding of disabled people’s lives. Individuals raised concerns to the charity about eligibility criteria for social care, with one person claiming she was told that she was “not disabled enough to have the social care support I wanted”.

Moreover, the pandemic was found to have disrupted many individuals’ care, with reductions in the number of hours received and long waits for specialist equipment.

Leonard Cheshire’s campaign showcases that there are three main ways in which disabled people are economically disadvantaged:

  1. Disabled people who are in work earn about 12 percent less, on average, than non-disabled counterparts
  2. Disabled people who are currently looking for work are about twice as likely to be unemployed
  3. Many more disabled people are economically “inactive” (i.e. unemployed and not looking for a job) – they are about three times more likely to be inactive compared to the wider population

Improved social care could help reduce each of these three impacts, the charity underlines.

The charity’s CEO, Ruth Owen OBE, said: “Economic arguments shouldn’t be the reason to reform social care, but as our research shows, they should no longer be a barrier. We want the government to have serious conversations with disabled people about social care, so it can meet their needs and support their life aspirations. Social care isn’t just about getting up and washed, though this kind of support is vital. It’s also about people being able to see friends and family, being able to travel, have hobbies, have a job, or seek higher education.

“The current government isn’t the first to kick the proverbial social care can down the road, but it needs to be the last. No more excuses, no more stalling – investing in care benefits everyone.”

The charity is calling on the public to support its Care for Equality campaign for urgent social care reform.

As part of the campaign, Leonard Cheshire is calling on policymakers in each country of the UK to create social care system which fully meets the needs of disabled people. Changes it wants to see are: ensuring the social care system fully meets the needs of disabled people; engaging and co-producing reforms with disabled people; investing in social care; building in greater choice and personalisation; and increasing funding for better workforce pay, training and career development.

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