Social care reform ‘could boost economy by £20bn by helping disabled to work’

Making social care more widely available would allow many disabled people to enter work or progress their careers, the Leonard Cheshire charity said.

A sign for disabled access (Philip Toscano/PA)
A sign for disabled access (Philip Toscano/PA)

Reforming the social care system could boost the UK economy by up to £20 billion a year by helping disabled people into work, charity research suggests.

Making social care more widely available would allow many disabled people to enter work, increase their hours or progress their careers, the disability charity Leonard Cheshire said.

Economic modelling for the charity by Frontier Economics found that this could generate between £6 billion and £20 billion for the economy.

Disabled people are three times more likely to be economically “inactive”, unemployed and not looking for a job, than the wider population, Leonard Cheshire said.

They also earn less and job-seekers are more likely to be unemployed.

Unmet caring and support, which could be provided through improved social care, could help to reduce each of these elements, the modelling assumes.

Some £6 billion could be generated if the wage gap between disabled and non-disabled workers was eradicated and by making unemployment rates among disabled people equivalent to the wider population, it says.

A disabled entrance door button (Andrew Matthews/PA)
A disabled entrance door button (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Based on reducing the level of economically “inactive” disabled people from about 43% to 30%, this could generate £20 billion a year to the economy, the modelling suggests.

Previous research by the Health Foundation has suggested that an additional £2-12.2 billion may be needed annually to bridge the social care funding gap.

Leonard Cheshire chief executive, Ruth Owen, said: “Economic arguments shouldn’t be the reason to reform social care, but as our research shows, they should no longer be a barrier.

“We want the Government to have serious conversations with disabled people about social care, so it can meet their needs and support their life aspirations.

“Social care isn’t just about getting up and washed, though this kind of support is vital.

“It’s also about people being able to see friends and family, being able to travel, have hobbies, have a job, or seek higher education.

“The current Government isn’t the first to kick the proverbial social care can down the road, but it needs to be the last.

“No more excuses, no more stalling, investing in care benefits everyone.”

The charity is calling on the public to support its Care for Equality campaign for urgent social care reform.

A Government spokeswoman said: “We are committed to reforming the adult social care system and, as set out in the Queen’s Speech, we will bring forward proposals later this year.

“Local authorities are responsible for assessing an individual’s eligibility for support and the plans we have already set out in our Health and Social Care Bill will ensure everyone has access to high quality care.

“We will continue to work closely with local and national partners to ensure future reforms are also informed by diverse perspectives, including of those with lived experience of the care sector.”

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