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Policymaking that cares about the carers

23 days ago

Rachael Griffin

Tax and financial planning expert at Old Mutual Wealth

Social care is a big headache for the government and it’s not one that is fading from view any time soon. It is more a persistent migraine as, over the past number of years, there have been numerous false starts to creating a sustainable and approachable social care policy.

While the policy system struggles to get out of the starting blocks, the social care system is being propped up by the public. Estimates show unpaid carers save the UK an astonishing £132 billion a year. A figure that will most certainly grow as our society ages.

However, these people sometimes don’t even recognise themselves as carers or the extent of the sacrifice they are making. Thinking of their own long-term financial wellbeing is crucial and the state pension is a big part of that, particularly as it’s money they rightfully deserve.

In fact, a Freedom of Information request by Quilter reveals just 17,388 people were receiving Carer’s Credit at the end of 2018. The Department for Work & Pensions estimates around 200,000 carers are eligible, with women making up a substantial proportion. The credit could be worth £244 a year in retirement, or £1,220 over five years.

In this particular instance, the Government has all the tools to ensure carers aren’t unnecessarily disadvantaged. However, these tools aren’t being used.

A campaign is needed and the Government should investigate what literature or forms carers receive, where they can highlight the need to apply for credits.

But crucially, given the low take-up so far, the Government also needs to extend the length of time people can retrospectively claim credits as at the moment it’s merely to the beginning of the previous tax year.

A small shift that could have a dramatic impact for people later on down the line.

Social care - a failing system

Carer’s credits are an important piece of policy to get right, but it’s just one element that is a symptom of the wider issue – the social care system is failing.

In the recent Spring Statement the Chancellor gave this issue a cursory nod as he announced it will be included as part of a three year spending review to be published alongside the next budget. What remains dramatically unclear is how the Chancellor can figure out how much to set aside for social care when the illusory green paper hasn’t even been published yet.

In fact the spending review has the capacity to drastically change the conversation around the green paper and social care policy as it will force policymakers’ hands to come up with a solution that fits the budget. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it moves the conversation forward.

However, what we cannot have is conversations around this crucial area of policymaking to come to yet another grinding halt. The Government needs to produce clear guidelines on how much the state will contribute towards a person’s long-term care, and how, so the wealth management and insurance industry can create products that will help remove the rest of the uncertainty.

The weight of the concern of being able to pay for care should not be underestimated. It impacts not just those that need care, but the loved ones around them who must fill in the gap.

*Last year Quilter launched an innovative collaborative partnership to support carers through its charitable foundation with Carers Trust and The Mix. The partnership aims to invest around £1.5 million over three years to develop and deliver pioneering support services for young carers in the UK.

Rachael Griffin, tax and financial planning expert at Quilter