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National Friendly enters BBC Panorama social care debate

The BBC’s flagship current affairs programme, Panorama, is to air two one hour films focussing on the adult social care crisis in Somerset. The films took 10 months to make and represent a detailed account of the day-to-day pressures facing the elderly needing care, the council and the carers whose role it is to deliver effective support. National Friendly, the Bristol-based mutual insurer, welcomes the attention these programmes will bring and urges people to discuss the issue with their own families.

A national crisis

Somerset is effectively representative of a wider UK crisis: the national issue of pressure on social care services as the population ages and the need for a national plan to sustainably fund care in the long-term. With Government apparently unable to suggest any policy initiatives, let alone start a debate on the matter, National Friendly, which has 150 years’ experience of looking after families, feels the time is right for the private sector to step up and deliver insurance policies that address the most immediate needs an ageing population might face.

Wayne Carter, Head of Sales and Marketing at National Friendly, thinks there is a lot the private sector can do in the short term at least. He also feels it is imperative that action is taken now to help protect families from the financial and emotional hardships that can result when someone, often a woman, gives up a paid career to become an unpaid family carer. 

Planning ahead

Once you have overcome the ‘it won’t happen to me’ defence, there are two methods of approaching the issue - pre-pay with modest monthly payments or plan financially for a much larger sum at point of need. 

Carter thinks, “Just like with any delicate family matter, it is almost always the case that families do not discuss things, let alone plan ahead, so typically they are always on the back foot, reacting rather than anticipating. There are a number of non means-tested state benefits we are all entitled to receive, to help with old age, such as blue badges to help with mobility and parking, attendance allowance and higher rate attendance allowance. Occupational therapy units accessed via your local GP can pay for the installation of basic safety and mobility equipment to help people stay in their homes, for example, but finding a single source to advise on what your options might be is very hard.

We offer our members discounted access to Grace Consulting, a helpline which helps people identify which state benefits are readily available, how they can secure help through their GP and district nurses and what is available at a generic level via their local social services adult support units. Accessing this information can make a real difference when it comes to alleviating financial hardship within the family too.”

Care in your home

Whilst residential care may be a necessity for some, and appealing to others, many people would prefer to stay in their own home. So the next hurdle faced might be payment for care, especially if a person’s savings exceed the current threshold of just over £23,000. Over this level, means-tested help is generally not available, even via local social services. Carter believes that the private sector can and should get involved at this point, as the costs can be modest, but the perceived value of what can be delivered can be high.

The start of a solution

National Friendly’s experience suggests a pattern where care needs in the home start at a modest level. In many cases, the situation can be managed with limited intervention by third party carers over quite long periods before care needs escalate and a more permanent solution is required. Carter explains that, “The first step is usually a realisation by the individual concerned that they do need some sort of help, yet there will still be a resistance to having, for example, live-in care, as this is felt to be too brutal a reminder that a person is becoming infirm. Instead, we see that clients often opt for limited help, perhaps with getting up in the morning, meal preparation and basic mobility. This can normally be accommodated through two or three short visits a day, the result being we see families are far more relaxed knowing that a person is being regularly checked up on and the individual themselves gains in confidence. 

“Insurance products such as our Assisted Living policy are designed to help those in good health prepare for future care needs. Our policy will help fund the cost of particular care needs, such as professional care services or the purchase and installation of assistive devices, up to the policy cover limits.”

Policies such as Assisted Living are not intended to be a catch-all solution, rather they provide an important first step and can help families start to set up a long-term, properly planned and funded care plan for their relatives. 

Having advice and support on how to access the right care, and where money can be saved is an important addition to financial cover.

Panorama’s programmes will demonstrate how having a little help in later life helps entire families. 

National Friendly and others in the insurance sector are now starting to offer realistic and practical insurance products which are designed to meet both the financial and non-financial challenges of adult social care.

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