Care homes were hit especially hard during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. By August 2020, there were almost 30,000 excess deaths in care homes. The Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis in care homes—including the manner in which it supplied Personal Protective Equipment to social care staff, conducted coronavirus tests, and released elderly hospital patients back to care homes to free up hospital beds—has been criticised by leading health professionals. Yet many believe that the real ‘social care crisis’ predates the pandemic and have been calling for social care reform for years.

In our latest poll, a plurality (42%) thinks the Government has done an overall bad job at protecting care homes from outbreaks, while a third (33%) thinks the Government has done a good job.

While a plurality of respondents still believe the Government has done a bad job at protecting care homes from outbreaks, this result still marks an improvement since June 2020, when the majority (52%) thought the Government had done a bad job and only a quarter (24%) thought it had done a good job.

Likewise, our research finds that a slight plurality of 38% currently thinks the Government has done a good job at providing social care staff with essential protective equipment (PPE), while 34% think the Government has done a bad job. This result is an improvement for the Government since June 2020, when 46% thought the Government had done a bad job at providing social care staff with PPE. Less than a third (31%) thought the Government did a good job back then.

As part of the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown, the Government announced that as of 8 March, care home residents will be allowed one visitor. Yet, the majority (52%) of the British public agrees that care home residents should have been allowed greater access to loved ones during the pandemic. Only a fifth (19%) disagree.

Looking beyond the pandemic, two-thirds (67%) of the public think that the UK Government should use the pandemic as an opportunity to overhaul social care in Britain, and only 5% disagree.

A plurality (42%) thinks social care should be free at the point of use like the NHS, regardless of whether individuals contributed into the system during their working lives, a decrease from 50% in July 2020. A further third (33%) thinks social care should be funded like a pension, with people paying in during their working lives and cashing in once they retire and need social care. Only 8% do not think social care should be provided for by the state and should instead be paid for by individuals and their families if and when they need it, an increase from 4% in July.

Notably, those aged 65 or older are more likely than younger age groups to support the pension option (47%) over an NHS-style universal social care system (34%).

The Government has been considering a plan to either introduce a rise in National Insurance or tax for those over the age of 40. Half (50%) of the British public agrees with the proposal to raise tax and national insurance contributions for those aged 40 or older, compared to just 37% support when the plan was suggested in July 2020. Approximately a quarter (23%) currently disagrees with the proposal, compared to a third (33%) who disagreed in July. Support for the proposed plan is high across age groups.

While support for social care reform in an abstract sense is high, only a fifth (22%) of respondents think it is likely they will live in a care home themselves at some point in their life, while 35% do not think it is likely. A plurality (44%) said they don’t know. This result suggests that the public supports social care reform regardless of whether they think it is likely they themselves will depend on care homes.

Ultimately, the public views the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic with regards to care homes and the social care sector more favourably than they did in June but is still divided on whether it thinks the Government adequately protected care home residents. The vast majority think care home residents should have been allowed greater access to their loved ones during the pandemic. Looking forward, the vast majority of the public views the pandemic as an opportunity to overhaul the social care sector. A plurality would like to see an NHS-style social care system—though support for this policy has decreased since June—and a significant minority thinks the social care sector should be funded like a pension system. However, despite desires to see change in the social care sector, the public is unsure whether it is likely they will live in a care home at some point in their lifetimes.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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