Costed, affordable, fair: a new approach to social care

Ian Johnson outlines Plaid Cymru’s plans to abolish fees for non-residential care

The battle for Wales’ future should be a battle of ideas. That’s what Leanne Wood said when firing the starting pistol for the 2016 election in May last year, and it is Plaid Cymru who have been innovative in proposing solutions for Wales’ challenges – targeting medical recruitment to strengthen our NHS, supporting teachers to improve our education, housing energy efficiency to tackle climate change and a fairer council tax system that better reflects property values and cuts bills for 75% of households.

The Assembly election 2016

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Plaid Cymru has long made the argument that the distinctions between medical care and social care in Wales are artificial – that there is no need for the separation between health and social care. It is now widely accepted that health and social care integration will improve the patient experience of care and that it will end so-called turf wars about responsibility for patients. Plaid Cymru is therefore leading on putting forward practical proposals to make this happen, rather than fudging the issue.

That’s why, in this election, we are making some bold but important pledges on providing free care at home or in a residential setting to tens of thousands of people.

We believe it is unfair that those who have paid into the system are treated differently when they require NHS medical help compared to those who do not. It is unfair that people have to jump through hoops and meet eligibility criteria for social care support they clearly need and to which they have contributed through their working lives through their taxes, and then find that they have to sell their homes just to pay for the care they deserve. This equalisation of treatment between health and social care is crucial to the integration of the services.

A Plaid Cymru government will therefore introduce free personal care for the elderly within the first two years of our government, abolishing all fees for non-residential care. We have form in making a difference on these issues. The One Wales Government capped the costs of domiciliary care (care in the home) to a maximum of £50 per week, a sum that has slowly slid up to £60 per week. In government after 5th May we will scrap these costs, saving individuals up to £3,120 per year and ensuring that none of the 44,000 older people in receipt of domiciliary care have to fund this themselves. This will cost around an additional £32m per year to cover the current receipts that local councils get for this service, rising as our demographics change.

Plaid Cymru believes it unfair that those with dementia are treated as social care under current scenarios when it is clear that patients have substantial long-term needs.

We will also abolish charges for those with a dementia diagnosis in this Assembly term – including for nursing and residential care. Estimates from the Alzheimer’s Society and others suggest that more than two-thirds of Wales’ 16,000 residential care residents have dementia, perhaps as many as 80%. As we all know, the costs of care are substantial – an average of between £500 and £600 per week so funding this as an individual or family is a major task – £30,000 per year, with strict financial eligibility criterion. We estimate that funding this pledge will cost around £134m per year, again rising with demographics.

The third and final phase of our proposal is to remove fees from all older people’s social care by 2026. This sounds like a big pledge – but in reality that is the payment of fees for the remaining 20% to a third of residents who do not qualify for support through their dementia diagnosis. We estimate the final cost of our care pledges to be around £226m, with £180m being required for pledges in the final year of this Assembly term, paid for using the £925m Barnett consequential coming to Wales for NHS and social care that Plaid Cymru has ring-fenced.

Our plans are costed, affordable and fair, and they provide peace of mind that a Plaid Cymru government will look after everybody in Wales in their old age, without the need to jump through eligibility criterion hoops, sell their homes or otherwise face financial ruin.

Free care for all is a genuinely radical yet affordable policy for the next Assembly.

Plaid Cymru’s costed and independently verified manifesto fizzes with ideas on how to make Wales better. That’s why we’re the change Wales needs on May 5th.

Ian Johnson is Plaid Cymru - the Party of Wales candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan. He is a Vale of Glamorgan county councillor on the Health and Social Care committee and Plaid Cymru's Head of Policy.

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