Welsh Government Consider Tax Increase to Cover Cost of Care

The Welsh Government are considering raising taxes to cover the cost of caring from elderly and disabled people. They propose that money raised through this increase could be spent on abolishing care fees or on a pay rise for care workers.

A consultation on possible reforms to social care is due to start this summer with Health Minister Vaughan Gething set to call for "honesty" and a "grown-up debate" about increasing care costs.

The idea of raising income tax is likely to prove contentious in the run-up to the Welsh elections in 2021 but in a statement made to BBC Wales, Mr Gething said if the government wants "to seriously improve the quality and the reach of care, then it will require more funding."

"If you want to unpick all that and say 'actually we don't want to raise taxes', you've then got to be prepared to identify where you'll take money from."

Raising money from elsewhere would involve targeting other services for cuts "and after a decade of austerity I'm not sure that's really a viable prospect.”

Currently, the population of over-85s stands at just under 85,300. The numbers of people aged over 70 and in the oldest age group are growing steadily - and as a proportion of the overall population.

It is predicted a person in their mid-30s living in Wales now could be one of more than 220,600 to be living beyond their mid-80s in Wales in 50 years' time.

Social care is already under pressure across the UK from a squeeze on funding and high staff turnover. The growing ageing population is set to have a huge impact on a system which is already struggling.

The Health Foundation says pressures for adult social care are projected to rise faster than for the NHS, by an average of 4.1% a year.

A report found that fully funding these pressures in Wales would require an extra £1bn by 2030-31.

A report by another economist, commissioned by the Welsh Government, suggested an income tax increase of between 1% and 3% could be used to fund social care - but would vary depending on age and income.

Changes will not happen before next year's Welsh assembly elections.

Possible options for change fall into three categories: expanding care, reducing fees and paying workers more.

Mr Gething said: "We would have to find more resource to do any of these and that's the honesty we need in the national conversation.

"In all of these you can't get away from not just what we want, but also how much are we prepared to pay and by what mechanism."

Income tax rises, creating a new social care levy and changing the fees people pay were all "on the table", he said.

"I think that grown-up debate should lead us to somewhere where we understand exactly that you can't have something for nothing.

"If you want dignity, if you want quality, in the care that's provided to people of all ages you have to find a way to fund that."

Janet Finch-Saunders, the Welsh Conservatives' spokeswoman for social care, said she looked forward to an "overdue statement on this issue".

"We need to ensure that we are not looking to pour more money into a broken or inefficient system," she added.

Plaid Cymru health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said providing suitable social care for an ageing population was an issue of "political priority, and is one of the biggest challenges facing us".

"But Plaid Cymru believes that social care in Wales should be free at the point of need and funded from general taxation," he said.

"We're currently finalising our own offer to make this a reality. We can do this. We can make it affordable, but it needs the political will to make it happen."

To read more on this story visit: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-51357547
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