Mayor unveils his vision of ‘fully free care for life’
GREATER Manchester could become the first place in the country to axe social care charges, end 15-minute home visits and introduce a care tax under a radical proposal tabled by its mayor.
Andy Burnham wants ministers to trial a completely new model of social care in the region, which he says would provide ‘fully free care at the point of use for all of your life’.
He believes his plan gives government the answer to the country’s growing social care crisis.
Under his blueprint, funding would no longer split between the NHS and the ailing social care system but be paid to the NHS in one lump sum, which he believes would incentivise it to fund home care properly and keep people out of hospital.
His proposal would also see social care charges – which currently can end up leaving many people with no option but to sell their house in old age – scrapped and replaced with a new levy or tax.
Mr Burnham is asking government to consider the idea in the upcoming budget, arguing the Tories made a mess of their own social care policy during the general election and should look at something different.
“I don’t think we will ever solve it while we wait for peace to break out at national level and I believe I can do it,” he said. “I’m going to make government an offer, which is to make Greater Manchester a trial for the reform of the funding of social care.
“It would mean nobody worrying about social care charges or whether they can keep a large part of their home and savings. People can’t plan at the moment.
“Theresa May does need to come back to this issue after what happened in the general election and for us, it takes away the party political bit.
“This would provide fully free care at the point of use all of your life.”
Ultimately the former health secretary wants his plan to end the current situation in which hospitals are paid a ‘tariff’ for each day a patient is in hospital – while at the same time social care, which is overseen by councils, remains blisteringly under-funded.
Greater Manchester alone is facing a shortfall of more than £1bn in its social care budget, which has helped fuel soaring levels of bed-blocking, putting pressure on the NHS while leaving many people facing home visits of just a few minutes at a time.
Under Mr Burnham’s plan if a person was assessed as needing social care, an annual budget would be identified by the NHS and they would then be given the care in whichever setting was necessary, rather than in an expensive hospital set- ting. That would, Mr Burnham believes, lead to far more – and better – home care.
He said some parts of the region – including Salford and Tameside – are already well advanced in plans to merge health and social care. If we did it this way NHS organisations would have to employ high quality social care and the 15-minute visit culture would end at a stroke,” he said.
“Stage two would be to find a way to pay differently, with no charge. It would end the current situation in which the more vulnerable you are, the more you pay.”
Currently the mayor does not have the powers to impose any kind of tax or levy to fund social care, but Mr Burnham is asking government to look at the possibility.
As shadow health secretary he was viciously criticised by the Tories for proposing what they slammed as a ‘death tax’ to fund social care – a charge on estates when people die.
He has so far not outlined the kind of tax or levy he would introduce in Greater Manchester.
His plan is the brainchild of Wigan council leader Lord Peter Smith, one of the architects of the region’s health devolution deal.
●●Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham