At times it feels as though we are collectively putting our heads in the sand when we could be insuring our future.
We all know, or know of, someone who has developed dementia and needed social care, and prefer not to contemplate it happening to us. Yet we have a responsibility to our families and to the wider community to think about it and take action early.
Just as we moan about the NHS, we assume it will always be there, including when we get dementia, but residential care does not fall under the NHS and it is not cheap.
The Dilnot Review of adult social care showed that roughly half of all over-60s will die without ever needing any social care, but one in 10 will need care costing over £100,000. In other words, the risk of needing social care is highly skewed, but it is difficult to predict in advance who will actually have the highest costs. High quality dementia and nursing care can easily cost £2,000 per week.
For those who cannot afford this when their savings fall to a set level, the local authority offers some funding, but nowhere near enough to keep Jewish homes sustainable.
At Nightingale Hammerson, we welcome people based on care need, not on ability to pay. About 60 percent of our residents move in with sufficient funds to pay our fees, 40 percent with local authority funding. We fundraise to cover the gap between what the average local authority pays and the true cost.
The community is phenomenal and the gap is covered year after year, but it is getting harder and Jewish residential care homes are looking for more ways to survive.
Is it time to protect the community service provision as a whole by setting funds aside during our lifetime for social care?
Burial fees are set aside well in advance, and in manageable amounts, and some will pay more than others. Should we have an equivalent scheme for social care costs?
The German social care scheme collects 2.5 percent of income from everyone over the age of 40. Those who need support in later life can draw against this. Could we create a similar collective social insurance scheme for the Jewish community, and if we did, who would be best placed to administer it?
The UK insurance market has not shown interest in providing an insurance product for social care costs as they are so unpredictable and costly. A Jewish community scheme could not guarantee to cover total costs, but could alleviate some of the cost and worry for families. It could take the pressure off our amazing not-for-profit care homes and their amazing philanthropic, but ageing, supporters.
The National Association of Jewish Homes acknowledges that we need to change the way the community plans for its future social care needs. Care homes are facing pressures from all directions, including nurse recruitment, local authority fees reducing, and a fall in legacies given to charity. The association’s members are at risk of needing to either close homes or change their services to focus on making money instead of focusing on care needs.
At a recent conference in Birmingham, members discussed possible solutions. Most agreed that a reliance on fundraising was a risky way to plan ahead. The idea of an insurance-style scheme was raised and there were many views on the subject.
We still await a Government Green Paper that may or may not hold the answers. Even if it does, is likely to be too late to help this generation?
It feels increasingly likely the Jewish community will be finding solutions for itself.