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Man behind childcare vouchers pitches similar social care scheme to Treasury

A salary sacrifice scheme could be the future of adult social care funding, it has been suggested.

Speaking yesterday at an LGA conference, ‘Future of adult social care and support’, John Woodward OBE, a driving force behind childcare vouchers, proposed that a similar scheme could be used to partly fund the future of adult social care.

The scheme would allow eligible taxpayers to sacrifice a portion of their salary to fund their own or a dependent adult’s care, with the vouchers being flexibly accrued or deducted. If needed, it would allow multiple taxpayers to contribute to a single individual’s care.

Deductions could be as much as £100 a week, depending upon an individual’s income.

“This new initiative will give families the freedom and flexibility to not only fund care but to boost the quality of support they receive. This is only part of the answer,” said Woodward.

Referring to his experience with the childcare voucher scheme, he added: “We’ve proven that this type of option is popular, simple to run, has controlled costs and is rarely defrauded. Vouchers have already proven to work in practice and in this instance would provide long and short-term benefits while keeping the individual in control over all their care choices.”

He is calling for the proposal to be added to the upcoming social care green paper to encourage debate and discussion around the issue. Woodward is expected to meet with the Treasury later this month to discuss the proposal.

His suggestion comes amidst a difficult landscape for the care market, with the County Councils Network forecasting a funding gap of £2.5bn by 2019-20.

A report published today by the Health Foundation and the King’s Fund also found that by 2030-31, this funding gap will have risen to £6bn – and that returning to the levels of access and quality last seen in 2009-10, before the current period of austerity, would increase the gap to a whopping £15bn.

Speaking of the predicted funding gap, Woodward said: “The gap between what can be provided by the state and what is required by those who need it most has increased.

“More funding must be made available as demand increases, but taxpayers cannot bear the entire cost of everyone's care.”

According to the authors of today’s report, the British public have a low understanding of how social care operates, with 34% believing that it is government funded. Two-fifths of those responding to a British Social Attitudes survey believed that it should be entirely tax-funded.

In an employee survey conducted by Woodward, 76% of respondents said that they would be willing to take part in the proposed salary sacrifice scheme.

Commenting on her organisation’s report, Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: “We have reached a fork in the road and reforming social care is now urgent. Despite the obvious challenges, the government’s green paper must build wide consensus on which direction reform should take, and lead to real progress and improvement.”

Simon Bottery, senior fellow at the King’s Fund, added: “The case for change is overwhelming – patching up the current system would be costly and would not tackle its fundamental flaws.

“As the government prepares its forthcoming green paper, at least two alternatives should be on the table – a better means-tested system and one offering free personal care, which would cost similar amounts to implement.

“However, there is no silver bullet – the road to reform will be difficult and costly, whichever option is chosen.”


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