A recent edition of Radio 4's The Bottom Line debated the issues affecting the local authority-funded care home industry (funding pressures, increased regulatory scrutiny, the impact of the living wage, lack of capacity and so on). Each participant offered interesting thoughts on potential solutions.
I think there is merit in the government establishing a Royal Commission (or something similar) that has wide and deep scope to look at the sector properly and which asks key questions such as:
- How can more money be made available for the sector?
- Can insurance products be made readily available?
- How can the industry become more productive?
- How can technology be more effectively deployed?
- How do local authorities and the NHS work together more closely?
- What can be learnt from other countries?
- How can the social housing sector help?
None of these questions are new and there have already been numerous industry studies before. However, the demographics are driving the industry towards crisis and answers need to be found quickly.
The care home business is heading for a crisis according to Evan Davis's guests in this edition of The Bottom Line. The cost of providing care in this labour-intensive business has increased significantly because of the introduction of the National Living Wage. The fees paid by local authorities on behalf of poorer residents no longer cover the cost of providing accommodation, food and staffing. Care homes make up the shortfall by charging higher fees to privately funded residents. Social care analyst William Laing tells Evan Davis that private payers subsidise publicly funded residents by, on average, £8000 per annum. But this is not an option in less affluent areas with a shortage of fee paying clients.