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Beyond social care: Keeping later life positive

Policy Report

Which? is the largest consumer organisation in the UK with more than 1.3 million members and supporters. We operate as an independent, apolitical, social enterprise working for all consumers and funded solely by our commercial ventures. We receive no government money, public donations, or other fundraising income. Which?’s mission is to tackle consumer detriment by making individuals as powerful as the organisations they have to deal with in their daily lives. We empower consumers to make informed decisions and campaign to make people’s lives fairer, simpler and safer.

Older people who need social care support are increasingly being expected to act as consumers - often with enormous price tags attached. Around one in ten elderly people with care needs now face care costs of over £100,000. But the social care market does not function effectively. Consumers are often not presented with meaningful choices about the care they receive and they often make decisions under stress and without proper information. We welcome the Competition and Markets Authority’s consultation on draft consumer law advice for care homes. This provides clear advice to care homes on their existing legal obligations to provide key information to consumers. But there is still inadequate support to guide people through the full range of choices and options open to them. Once care is in place people are often nervous about complaining for fear of making matters worse. This social care market is not working for the people it is intended to serve.

The Government is planning to publish a long-awaited Green Paper on social care in England in the autumn. Using our unique understanding of how consumers think and behave, this report looks at how consumers engage with social care in practice. We want Government to design proposals which go with the grain of consumer behaviour to meet the needs of those who are using the system and make a positive impact. In particular, we look at whether consumers should or could be better prepared for care and whether they can be better encouraged to make choices which enable them to lead an independent and fulfilling later life for longer. And given that many consumers will need to access the formal care system at a time of crisis, we look at how they can be supported when they are at their most vulnerable.

This report is based on: behavioural science; a demographically representative survey of 2,104 UK adults in June 2018; a roundtable discussion with experts in the field of social care; and existing evidence and consumer insight.