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Rouzbeh Pirouz on Why social care changes are hurting disabled people in England the most
When Prime Minister Boris Johnson was elected in December 2019, it could be argued that it was on the back of his grand statement to fix social care.
According to his first speech, there was already a plan in place to fix social care in the UK.
Almost two years later, and the actual plan was announced on 7 September 2021. And it's a significant blow to disabled people and the workers who will be paying for it.
Rouzbeh Pirouz, Co-Founder of real estate and private equity firm London-based Pelican Partners, argues why these social changes are hurting disabled people in England the most.
Rouzbeh Pirouz | Social care for disabled people
While my role is primarily centred around the private equity investment firm I co-founded, I'm passionately in support of every disabled person in this country - and the world.
This is why it's very disappointing to find that future plans may not be enough to provide social care for everyone who needs it.
The announcement centres around a package of tax increases worth £12 billion per year.
Despite a rise in National Insurance representing a broken manifesto promise, the UK Government will levy a 1.25% increase on NI for employees and employers.
However, most of the revenue that will be generated from this controversial move is earmarked for the NHS.
How much of the tax increases will go towards the disabled community?
Of the £36 billion raised by 2025, just £5.3 billion will go towards fixing the social care crisis.
According to the Prime Minister, this is enough to ensure that the care costs of the elderly are covered.
Given that experts say it would take at least £8 billion extra every year even to get England back to the social care it provided in 2009-10, it's difficult to reconcile this.
Social care covers long-term, and in some cases lifelong- practical support for both the elderly in care homes and disabled people in their homes.
And while the NHS is free at source, this kind of care is not.
Every disabled person in England is worse off than ten years ago
Since 2009/10, social care has been stripped to the bone. The system is messy, convoluted and unfair. Provided by a mix of private companies, individuals and charities, all managed by local authorities.
Over the last decade, state funding has fallen by £8 billion, thanks to continued austerity. During the same time period, demand has risen. And it continues to increase all the time.
People are living longer, but there are also millions of disabled people who are of working age.
Some disabled people simply have to try and fund their own care, and costs can increase fast. Others can't do this, and regardless of the physical or mental disability they deal with, they have to go without the help they need.
What is the threshold for disabled people to pay for their own care?
At the moment, disabled people who have assets worth more than £23,250 must pay their own costs.
The government’s changes will mean that disabled people and the elderly with assets of less than £20,000 will have their costs paid in full.
Anyone with assets worth between £20,000 and £100,000 will have to contribute to their care costs up to a value of £86,000. While they may be able to access some form of financial assistance, it will be on a sliding scale.
While the changes undoubtedly will reduce costs for some disabled people and elderly people in terms of care, they are geared more towards ensuring that people's inheritances are preserved.
This is not the kind of social care plan that will realistically help people with physical accessibility needs, the elderly who need care but don't have lots of savings. Nor does it even address accessibility barriers for disabled employees.
What went wrong with social care in England?
Disabled people and those who need assistance have suffered from increased cuts and the outsourcing of social care to the private sector.
Add on the last ten years of austerity, the challenges of Brexit and COVID-19, and its bleak outlook for disabled people.
In 2020, according to the Care Quality Commission, one in six social care providers in England were not meeting even the most basic standards.
It's also extremely relevant that care staff who look after disabled people and the elderly are mostly paid less than a real living wage.
Perhaps changes should begin by improving conditions for social care staff, including removing zero-hour contracts that take away holiday and sick pay.
Disabled workers may need some form of support
Around half of care, budgets have, up until now have gone on disabled people of working age. The social care funding changes that will be brought in by the UK Government mean that a pensioner may not have to sell their home to pay for their care.
However, for a 25 year old adult with a physical or mental disability, this means nothing.
Many disabled people want the opportunity to live independently and to live at home with support.
Life is the same for everyone - disabled people have the right to work, see friends, socialise and everything else. At the moment, care is heavily restricted to the basics, and many disabled people can't even access that.
What kind of social care plan could work better for disabled people in England?
According to the TUC, a different long-term approach would raise enough to cover social care.
Increasing capital gains tax instead of NI and bringing it to the level of income tax could bring in as much as £17 billion.
Disabled people in England have been waiting and hoping for the Government to help them for years. This plan by the current Government will not do so.
How is the lack of affordable social care affecting real disabled people?
Research by BBC News shows that disabled people, including disabled workers, struggle with the constant increases in the cost of care and assistance.
Some adults in England who have learning disabilities are, for example, paying thousands of pounds more every year.
Around 41 regions the BBC surveyed have increased bills for all users by 10% in just two years. Local authorities blame the Government cuts.
The BBC gives an example of Saskia Granville, a young adult with a learning disability. Saskia lives in supported accommodation, and the amount she and her family have to pay for her care has increased from £92 per month to £515 per month. That's an unsustainable rise of more than 400%.
Overall, the amount disabled people must pay towards basic care has increased from £369 million in 2019 to £420 million in 2021.
According to Mencap, the charity for people with learning difficulties, the changes in costs mean that "the least well off in society are being forced to make up for the shortfall in funding... [some are] having to make tough choices between food and heating and paying for care."
Disabled workers are often locked out of employment.
It's difficult enough for physically disabled people to get into the workplace. The disabled population is hugely underrepresented compared with the general population.
For people with learning disabilities, it's even more challenging to find a job and therefore pay for everyday life. Just 6% of people with learning disabilities are employed, which clearly shows how unrealistic it is to expect people to make extra money to pay for care.
How has the global pandemic impacted social care in England?
COVID-19 has inevitably increased the need for support. This has hit a social care system that was already in crisis, and the fact that it is so often those who have the least who are expected to fill in funding gaps is increasingly inexcusable.
We badly need a long-term inclusive stance from the Government in dealing with the social care crisis and the abject lack of support for disabled people.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to resume life as the world adjusts to the pandemic, including better accessibility for disabled people across the board.
Substantial social care reform is needed, and it must be from the bottom up. A top-down approach that ends up withholding care and support for the people who need it most is no longer acceptable.
I’m concerned that the plan outlined by the Prime Minister and subsequently rubber stamped by Parliament will make the future even more difficult for disabled people in this country.
A decade of austerity has left many millions of disabled people just getting by. Without some substantial positive changes to the system, I fear that disabled people will suffer more.
About Rouzbeh Pirouz
Rouzbeh Pirouz, is the Co-Founder London-based Pelican Partners, a real estate and private equity firm. Rouzbeh Pirouz is a tech entrepreneur and philanthropist. In 1997, he founded mondus.com. Thanks to successful venture capital investment, the fast-growing tech start-up quickly became a leader in the European tech industry. Rouzbeh took on the role of CEO and raised more than $150 million in strategic and venture capital funding. Whilst heading up Pelican Partners, Rouzbeh is passionate about championing the rights and furthering the causes of disabled people.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or the management of EconoTimes