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More than four out of five people in Northern Ireland have made no provision for their care in the future, while a full one-third of elderly people say their greatest fear is of having to move into a care home, because of worries about the kind of treatment they might receive.

These are just some of the findings contained in research carried out by the University of Ulster and Queen’s University, Belfast.  More than 1,200 adults took part in the 2010 Northern Ireland Life and Times (NILT) Survey which explored public perception of the current social care system and people’s views on future policy.

This annual survey is conducted by ARK, a joint research initiative between Queen’s University and the University of Ulster.  It takes a timely look at social care policy as the Westminster government looks set to introduce major changes in this area and the issue will have to be confronted by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Key points in the survey include: Only 20% of respondents feel that the current system of funding social care is fair. 76% of respondents supported care which is free at the point of delivery and funded by a special tax or insurance although a significant proportion of respondents expressed support or the idea whereby care is means-tested so that those who cannot afford to pay anything get free personal care and those who can afford to pay do pay.84% of people have not made any provision for their own future care.72% of respondents feel that spending on domiciliary care services rather than residential care should be a priority.With regard to residential care, for older people the greatest fear is leaving their own home.A third of over 65s would be worried about their treatment in care homes.There is very strong support for the system of social care being the same across the UK (82% of respondents).

Dr Ann Marie Gray (pictured), one of the report’s authors stated that "While growing life expectancy means that there will be greater reliance on social care services in future   the system is under pressure even now.  The policy response needs to take account of public opinion and needs to look to the long term.  These findings provide good insight into some of the concerns people have and indeed the strength of feeling on issues such as how care should be funded."

The research findings are available in a report ‘Developing Social Care Policy: the Public Voice’ which can be found online at

The findings from this research will be highlighted at a seminar on Tuesday 22 November.

Notes to editors: The report is available online at seminar will be held on Tuesday 22 November at NICVA, Duncairn Gardens, Belfast at 12 noon. The event is free and open to the public, but attendees are asked to confirm their attendance by phone at 028 7167 5513 or email

·      ARK is a joint resource between the two Northern Ireland universities. It is dedicated to making social and political information on Northern Ireland available to the widest possible audience. Users include researchers, teachers, schoolchildren, policymakers, journalists, community/voluntary sector workers and anyone with an interest in Northern Ireland society and politics.  Further information can be found on the ARK website at

·      ARK is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). ESRC is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s total budget for 2010/11 is £218 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.

·      The questions on social care for older people within the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey were funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies.