Politics and the Care Conundrum

Politics and the Care Conundrum

What are the underlying political drivers of England’s long-term care funding problem.

The state, the older population and wider society have sufficient wealth to finance a properly funded social care system for England. The persistent problems of funding care in England therefore poses what can be termed the ‘care conundrum’, as the underlying cause is not a shortage of money or resources.

This paper seeks to explain this ‘care conundrum’, and its root causes in issues of politics and governance.

Using a ‘toolbox’ of ideas and theories drawn from political science, the paper identifies multiple factors that may explain the ‘care conundrum’, such as:

  • The varied, ‘indefinable’ nature of social care;
  • The illogical, complex ‘mess’ of institutions overseeing social care policy;
  • Public ignorance of what social care is and what outcomes represent quality;

The paper argues that until these issues are addressed, any boost to public spending on social care resulting from lobbying by campaigners is likely to prove a temporary fillip.

As a practical response, the paper calls for the creation of an Office for Care and Living – built upon the precedent of the Office for Budget Responsibility – which would undertake a number of strategic functions, such as public education and data provision, in order to address the ‘care conundrum’, and the failure of democratic accountability alone to ensure a properly funded social care system.

In the context of the 2012 White Paper on social care, the paper argues that in the face of voter disinterest toward social care, the government does nevertheless have an opportunity to reposition public and political discourse on care funding to create the conditions for sustainable long-term reform.

The Strategic Society Centre is very grateful to the support of the Nuffield Foundation for making this report possible.

Author: James Lloyd, Strategic Society Centre

Download the report: Politics and the Care Conundrum

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