"Being able to accurately calculate the number of self-funders can provide a better understanding of the flow of money to care homes. This in turn can tell us something about the long-term sustainability of social care providers."
The COVID pandemic has thrown a spotlight on our care homes, but getting data on the care home population remains challenging. This is particularly true of people who self-fund their care.
The UK Household Longitudinal Survey (UKHLS) suggests there could be 350,000 self-funders (residential and home care) in England but there are no official statistics available on this group. The care home population also changes constantly as people move in and out of care, which means that currently only providers have a 360 degree view of care home residents.
We know that self-funders are paying significantly higher fees than local authorities for care home beds.
Self-funders may also be expected to pay extra for services that are included for state-funders – like being accompanied to medical appointments, or receiving a visit from the hairdresser .
Most people with savings of more than £23,250 will be expected to self-fund some or all their care. Too often this adds financial concerns to families who are rightly focused on ensuring their loved ones are in receipt of the care that they need.
Because self-funders pay more, some providers are focusing their business models on that group. Some are moving out of areas where most people are funded by local authorities and this is leading to gaps in provision.
There is an issue of equality here. But there is also an issue of sustainability in the social care system, and what needs to happen to ensure provision is guaranteed for all who need it into the future.
Being able to accurately calculate the number of self-funders can provide a better understanding of the flow of money to care homes. This in turn can tell us something about the long-term sustainability of social care providers.
We are all very conscious that the system is under great strain and the pandemic has impacted occupancy levels as well as workforce shortages. The Prime Minister has pledged to fix social care and although the pandemic has generated multifaceted challenges for other sectors, it surely cannot further delay taking proactive steps to remedy the difficulties surrounding social care.
Since identifying the people who fund their own care is challenging, we have worked with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to develop an approach for calculating numbers of self-funders.
But this is a work in progress and we want to hear from those on the ground to help us refine our approach. Read more about the work and what you can do to help here.