THE BLOG

The Power and the Majesty of Social Care Reform

10/05/2013 12:05 BST | Updated 09/07/2013 10:12 BST

In her annual speech this week The Queen confirmed that the Care and Support Bill will be introduced "to reform the way long term care is paid for, to ensure the elderly do not have to sell their homes to meet their care bills."

Reform of adult social care has been in the political limelight for many years. This latest announcement makes a firm and very welcome commitment to addressing an age-old issue - but it also opens a floodgate of challenges and fierce debate which will test our government to the limit.

The harsh reality is that the funding available to support an increasingly elderly population, by modernising more than sixty years of care and support, falls woefully short of what is needed - at a time when Britain's economy is at its weakest.

So it comes as no surprise that reforming the way in which care and support is funded forms a key part of the new legislation. This will include the creation of a cap on the care costs that people will pay, and will provide a new legal entitlement for everyone to a personal care budget.

These crucial measures are intended to give peace of mind and return control to the individual - but such measures must come at a price. We know that the Department for Communities and Local Government faces further budget cuts from 2015; unlike the Department of Health, its funds have not been protected. Yet the DCLG is responsible for delivering many of the social care services pledged by Her Majesty.

One of these is in-home adaptations. Last year we embarked on a study with the London School of Economics' Personal Social Services Research Unit to identify the cost savings that could be made by increased investment in preventative, in-home care. We found that for every £1 spent on adaptive technologies there could be a net saving to the taxpayer of £1.10 - equating to an annual potential saving of £1,100 per person per year if the government puts aids and adaptations at the heart of its adult social care reforms.

The cost benefit case for home adaptations is strong, and its funding, under the Disabled Facilities Grant, was protected in the last round of cuts. But as we look ahead, its future hangs in the balance. Local authorities, already under huge pressure to deliver higher levels of devolved services to more people, under tighter budgets, will be forced to take unpopular decisions which have the potential to impact thousands of peoples' day to day lives.

On Wednesday, the Queen pledged to simplify Britain's care and support system and achieve better results for people. No result is better than the success of enabling an older, or less mobile adult to retain their independence by staying in their own home. The physical, emotional and financial benefits of this speak for themselves; it is something we will all benefit from at some point in our lives - and a service that we must, together, fight to protect.