People are struggling to save for social care: LSE research

People are not saving to pay for their social care in later life because it is too difficult.
- Josie Dixon
Social care 560 747

People find saving for social care too difficult and feel the current system needs an overhaul, a recent study from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) has found.

The research, which was conducted with eight focus groups in May 2018, explored how people prepare for future social care needs and sought to understand what was important to people for how social care should be funded and provided in the future.

The researchers found people were optimistic about their chances of not needing care or had not thought about needing care in the future. They also preferred to contribute regularly for social care rather than find considerable sums of money at times of crisis.

Commenting, Josie Dixon, an Assistant Professorial Research Fellow within the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre at LSE, working with the Policy Innovation Research Unit at LSHTM said:

“People are not saving to pay for their social care in later life because it is too difficult. For example, they don't know how much to save. At one end of the scale, they are reluctant to save for something they may not need and, at the other, they don't think the average person can save enough for the significant levels of social care need such as people with dementia often have.

“There also isn't an easy and secure way of saving as there is with pensions. And policy is seen as unsettled, with people thinking the system could easily be different by the time they need care”.

The participants discussed what was important to them about how social care should be funded in future and indicated they preferred to avoid social care need, instead supporting investments in prevention. They reported wanting any new arrangements to be inclusive, personally affordable, sustainable, good quality, honest and transparent so obligations and entitlements are clear and everyone benefits fairly.

Lead author Josie Dixon added: “People generally thought the use of housing assets to pay for care was unfair, both for those with property who may lose most of their assets and for those without property who are left reliant on the state. People also worried about poor care and abuse and wanted to know that, if they contributed, the care they received would be good-quality."  

At a time when people are living longer and there is a growing focus on preparing for social care needs, the authors note the study highlights the complexity of the current social care system and the uncertainties that make it difficult for people to know how best to plan for possible care needs in the future.

Behind the article

Dixon J, Trathen A, Wittenberg R, Mays N, Wistow G, Knapp M (2019) Funding and planning for social care in later life: a deliberative focus group study, Health and Social Care in the Community.

  • In England, publicly-funded social care is available only to those with high needs and few resources, with anyone with high needs and assets or income over £14,250 making a contribution and those with £23,250 or more funding all their care. Discussions on reforming funding of social care in England have been taking place for a number of years with policy reform still awaited to address social care funding needs. 
  • As part of the research, eight deliberative focus groups were conducted in May 2018 with 53 participants, aged 25-82 years, in London, Manchester and rural locations near York and Sheffield.
  • The study was funded by the NIHR Policy Research Programme through its core support to the Policy Innovation Research Unit (Project No: 102/0001).
  • The Care Policy and Evaluation Centre (CPEC) is a leading international research centre carrying out world-class research in the areas of long-term care (social care), mental health, developmental disabilities, and other health issues - across the life course - to inform and influence policy, practice, and theory globally. Until June 2019, the Centre was named the Personal Social Services Research Unit at the LSE.