Estimating the number of self-funders in residential care

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes model for estimating number of self-funders in adult residential social care.

15th October 2021 about a 3 minute read

Today, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are publishing a model for estimating the number of self-funders in adult residential social care, and it is a publication we warmly welcome. At FCC we have something of a track record of lamenting gaps in social care data, a theme that was also picked up by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) in their 2020 review of adult social care statistics. The absence of reliable data on people who fund their own care has been a particular concern: it is recognised that self-funders contribute significantly to the economic viability of the adult social care sector, but as long as we don’t know the true numbers we can’t know the full extent of this contribution. This is something we have previously explored with the ONS, and is why the work published today is so crucial.

Under current rules, anyone with assets exceeding £23,250 must pay for their care in full. From 2023 this is set to change to £100,000, and a cap will be introduced ensuring that no one will pay more than £86,000 for their care in total. The ‘Care Levy’ proposed by the Prime Minister in Build Back Better: Our plan for health and social care is set to offset some of these costs, but as we have argued in a previous post, questions remain over the extent to which this will enable long-term sustainability of social care provision. Better data on the self-funding population will arguably help answer some of those questions.

Not knowing who the self-funders are also mean not knowing the true impact of self-funding care on individuals. There is evidence to suggest that people who fund their own care pay more for equivalent services compared to those whose care is funded by their Local Authority. Sometimes, services that are included in a care package for a state funded individual are excluded for self-funders, leading to additional top-up costs. This will affect the care experience. Meanwhile, many more individuals are receiving care outside of residential settings in their homes and community, and we are pleased to note that the ONS propose to extend their current work to these populations in the future.

It is important to note that this is very much a first step in filling a significant data gap, and because of the complexities in social care provision it will not be filled overnight. The ONS have outlined the next steps in their programme of work in this area and are welcoming feedback on their model which will be used to refine future iterations.