We need policymaking that cares about the carers

The social care system is being propped up by the public, with thousands of people missing out on credits that they are entitled to, writes Rachael Griffin.

Social care is a big headache for the government and it’s not one that is going to fade anytime soon. Over the past few years, there have been numerous false starts to creating a sustainable and approachable social care policy.

Meanwhile, the social care system is being propped up by the public. Estimates show that unpaid carers save the UK an astonishing £132 billion a year. A figure that will most certainly increase as our society ages.

However, people sometimes don’t even recognise themselves as carers, or the extent of the sacrifice that they are making. Caring responsibilities can sometimes ramp up over time and what may have started as a few simple jobs around the house for someone, can end up becoming more like a full-time job.

The Carers Trust defines a carer as “anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support ”. Thinking of their own long-term financial well-being is crucial and the state pension is a big part of that, particularly as it is money that they rightfully deserve.

A Freedom of Information request by Quilter reveals that just 17,388 people were receiving Carer’s Credit at the end of 2018. However, the Department for Work and Pensions estimates that around 200,000 carers are eligible. The credit could be worth £244 a year in retirement, or £1,220 over five years.

In this particular instance, the government has all the tools to ensure that carers aren’t unnecessarily disadvantaged. However, these tools aren’t being used.

A campaign is sorely needed, and the government should investigate what literature carers receive, and highlight the need to apply for credits.

Crucially, the government also needs to extend the length of time that people can retrospectively claim credits as, at present, it’s merely to the beginning of the previous tax year. 

A small shift could make a dramatic impact to people later down the line.

If a change doesn’t happen, it is critical that carers are presented with literature that is both simple and transparent, so that someone can easily understand exactly how long the retrospective period is, and how to go about claiming any credits.

Social care: a failing system

Carer’s credits are an important piece of policy to get right, but are just one element in a failing social care system.

In his Spring Statement, the chancellor gave this issue a cursory nod as he announced that it will be included as part of a three-year spending review to be published alongside the next Budget.

What remains unclear is how the chancellor will be able to figure out how much to set aside for social care when the green paper hasn’t even been published yet.

The spending review has the capacity to drastically change the conversation around the green paper and social care policy as it will force policymakers to come up with a solution that fits the Budget.

However, what we cannot afford is for conversations around this crucial area of policymaking to come to another grinding halt.

The government needs to produce clear guidelines on how much the state will contribute towards a person’s long-term care, and how the wealth management and insurance industries can create products that will help remove the remaining uncertainty.

Concerns over not being able to pay for care should not be underestimated. It impacts not just those who need care, but the people around them who must fill in the gap. 

Last year, Quilter launched an innovative collaborative partnership to support carers through its charitable foundation with the Carers Trust and The Mix. The partnership aims to invest around £1.5 million over three years to develop and deliver pioneering support services for young carers in the UK.

Rachael Griffin is tax and financial planning expert at Quilter.

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