Of all the Tory manifesto pledges that are likely to be junked by the new government, the 'dementia tax' pledge on funding care will get some of the biggest cheers.
But during Carers Week we must not lose sight of the desperate need to properly finance care for the growing number of older and disabled people.
The Tory manifesto u-turn on care funding shows how difficult it is to reform this area of public policy. And the fiasco explains why so little progress has been made over the last twenty years despite countless commissions, inquiries and reports.
The Tories started at the wrong place. Rather than defining a vision for a new care system, the Tories jumped straight to the question of how much individuals should pay for their care.
A new care system needs to be fairer, simpler and sustainable and must deliver better quality care for all who need it.
It must also resolve the growing care crisis with well over one million older people not getting the help they need, others relying on family carers or paying bigger bills because councils have cut care budgets.
An immediate, substantial cash injection would bring stability to the current system while plans for a new care system are developed.
Four principles that United for All Ages would like to see underpinning a new care system are:
- Universality - everyone should be able to get something from the care system and therefore will be prepared to share the risks and costs like the NHS.
- Planning ahead - thinking about the care we might want towards the end of life should involve us all focusing on our housing and health, so that we remain in control of the support we need.
- Sustainability - more funding is needed but we must make much more of and support all the people involved if we are to build a care system that lasts, from those using care and their families and carers to the care and health workforce.
- Mainstreaming - care should be everybody's business and a key part of our economic and social infrastructure. That means not just integration with housing and health, but also involving other agencies, employers, schools etc.
True integration of health and care will require a single source of funding, as well as one body responsible for planning and commissioning services. Only if care is funded in the same way as the NHS will we get a service that is reliable for older and disabled people and their families and carers, there for them across the country wherever they live.
That is the point to decide how much funding will then be required to make the vision happen and how it will be raised. Taxation is still the fairest way to pay for care and other public services.
But, as United for All Ages has argued previously, we need a commission on fairer taxation so that the burden doesn't fall entirely on the working population. By shifting the balance of taxation from income to wealth, inevitably some wealthier older people will pay more. But unlike the dementia tax, it wouldn't be a roll of the dice hat decides who pays for better care.
It would be more than a tad ironic if a junked election pledge led to a much better system for everyone who needs care and support after so many failed attempts at reform.
Stephen Burke is director of United for All Ages and Good Care GuideSuggest a correction