Means-testing of Social Care PackagesFebruary 12, 2018
A report issued in December 2017 by two English social care academics recommended that care packages in the home in Northern Ireland, which are currently offered free-of-charge, should instead be means-tested.
The report was set into motion by Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill during her time as health minister. The report has 16 proposals and amongst them is the aim of creating a “valued” and “professional” workforce that they hope would allow the provision of social care to be on an equal footing with the provision of health care services.
Currently domiciliary care, being care that is provided in the home setting, is free-of-charge from the NHS whilst nursing home care is paid for privately by individuals who can afford it following a means-testing system.
The report found that the introduction of an entirely means-tested social care system would make funding for all types of care “fair” and “equitable,” as well as bringing the NI system in line with that found in England and Wales. This would mean where an individual can afford to pay for their care, whether in their own home or in a nursing home, they would do so.
The social care system remains under significant pressure given the ageing population found across the entire UK. It is acknowledged that a solution to the challenge as to how to fund the system was necessary but it is interesting to note that the Department of Health chose to publish the report even though Northern Ireland is without a current health minister.
The Department has called for a wide debate with the aim to develop an action plan. Charities such as Age NI contributed a response to the report. “Age NI calls on our decision-makers and political leaders to make reform of social care a priority.” It was acknowledged by Northern Ireland’s chief social worker that in order for the current system to remain sustainable, the services “would have to undergo significant change.”
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