“Blood, toil, tears and sweat” was what Winston Churchill famously offered the British people to win the Second World War but sacrifices must be made again says Lord Warner, to end to the suffering of millions of elderly and disabled needing care.
Not the ‘Finest Hour’
Lord Norman Warner, a crossbench peer and former health minister, told carehome.co.uk in an exclusive interview: “You’ve got a real mess. The Conservatives have been in office one way or another since 2010 and the situation has been made worse since. Things have gone badly wrong on a government’s watch.
“The government, and the Treasury in particular, have declined to take seriously all the warnings that have been issued by people like me across the sector, across the political spectrum people have been saying you are now really literally dicing with death.”
’Wishy washy’ green paper
Theresa May promised MPs in October that a blueprint for social care’s future sustainability will be in a green paper to be published by the end of the year, but Lord Warner says: “I’ll be truly amazed if the green paper comes out before Christmas.
“I have extremely low expectations for this green paper. I’m expecting a green paper which is very wishy washy that does not deal with the real problems and kicks the can along the road.
“If the government had any long-term solutions [for social care] they would have done it by now.
“It has shown no willingness to accept advice on taxation for funding public services from the OBR [Office for Budget Responsibility] or the Institute for Fiscal Studies. It seems to me that they have no credible solution that the Treasury is willing to back.
“I’m not saying Labour will be the cavalry coming over the hill. The Opposition has no credibility. I mean you would not trust Corbyn with the nation’s purse strings.”
On the future of social care, he says: “The government is very, very slow to respond and you have to keep asking the question: Why? Are they really serious about trying to use a stable source of funding for adult social care?
“I think the best we can actually get out of it, is some version of Dilnot, because that’s reasonably easy and cheap to do.”
Lord Warner believes the government won’t but should be sending out messages “to clean the mess up”. “It’s going to take something special. It would need to be Churchillian”.
The peer referenced social care’s woes created by government funding cuts, with greater restrictions on people’s access to social care, nursing and care worker shortages and highlighted private sector organisations handing back care contracts – leaving family carers and millions to cope alone.
“The problem is the access to care has been increasingly restricted – you’ve now got to be really, really vulnerable and dependant to get adult social care. We’ve got big problems too attracting people to work in this sector. They don’t want to work in this sector. The pay is low, conditions are difficult and hard.”
Brexit: ‘Collective action of self-harm’
Describing Brexit as “the most extraordinary collective action of self-harm I’ve ever seen in this country” he says whoever is running the country post-Brexit, will be forced to amend immigration law so that low skilled care workers from the EU can work in the UK to keep care services going.
On the subject of the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill, going through the House of Lords, he says: “It is totally unrealistic for the government to expect care workers and care homes to be the social policeman.
“For people where they have no mental capacity, we have always believed in this country that deprivation of liberty is a matter for the state not the matter for individuals.”
With public services cut, he argues: “Now, social care is competing for money in a situation where there are a lot of public services short of cash; police; schools; defence. Are you going to prioritise the police or the older people, which one do you do?
“If you look at what’s going on in London with the safety on streets, you would have to be I think incredibly optimistic to think that with a Conservative government social care is going to trump police and defence”.
Lord Warner worked on the Dilnot Commission’s recommendations to the government in 2011, including a cap of £35,000 on the amount an individual must pay for their own care costs during their lifetime.
He says now: “A cap does not solve the problems of social care. A cap increases the fairness of social care as those people who are unlucky enough to have really serious conditions, require a lot of social care and haven’t got much in the way of resources – they get a better deal under a cap”. But he says a cap “doesn’t address the big problem”.
Lord Norman Warner.
“The big problem is adult social care requires a reliable, steady new stream of revenue. Whether it’s social insurance like Japan, inheritance tax, tax on wealth, whatever. You can’t put it right without that.”
He argues people shouldn’t “pretend” social care can be reliably funded out of council tax or general taxation. “It ain’t going to work”. Lord Warner describes council tax as “a very poor way” of funding social care because it depends on the rateable values of property, which varies greatly across the country.
“There’s no way of funding adult social care reliably and fairly, without a row. It’s been allowed to get so bad that you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”
’The polluter pays’
He says to create a new stream of revenue, “you are going to upset somebody” to pay for it.
“Who do you upset? I’m all in favour of upsetting the wealthy, older people. Simply asking the under 40s to pay more for the wealthy elderly is just nuts.
“I’m much more inclined to tax the passage of inherited wealth because I’m a great believer in the polluter pays. The people demanding the services are for the most part the over 80s. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be taxed over the hilt when I’m over 80, which will be depressingly soon.
“And why are we giving wealthy elderly people free bus passes, free tv licenses, not paying national insurance when they’re earning?”
Lord Warner is in favour of “an overhaul of inheritance tax and a tax on wealth but also begin the process of what Japan has done.” He describes getting people on a compulsory basis, in their mid-to-late 40s, to contribute to a social insurance care fund, similar to Japan’s social insurance.
“I have a two-pronged attack, I think you have to go for wealth, inherited wealth, particularly property wealth. “You can do that quicker than building up a social care fund.
“It took the Japanese a long time to build up their social care fund. We’re not going to be able to use that to put right the deficits in the current system.
“So, you’ve got to do something about stabilising the system, sooner rather than later”.
Credited to Angeline Albert