The government’s long-awaited and much delayed social care plan has been pushed back again as the prime minister and health secretary self-isolate – a month after MPs warned the sector “cannot afford” any more broken promises.
The Department of Health and Social Care had been set to release a plan for how to reform social care this year – with reports suggesting it could be released before the summer parliamentary recess starts at the end of this month.
But the plan will now not come out until after the recess, after Boris Johnson, Sajid Javid and chancellor Rishi Sunak were forced into self-isolation after being notified they had come into contact with someone with Covid-19 by NHS Test and Trace.
A government source told the Guardian yesterday that the plans are now “well progressed”, but will not be signed off before the recess. “Obviously having the three of them off hasn’t helped,” the source told the newspaper.
The revelation comes after a June report from the Public Accounts Committee imploring DHSC to set out its plans to overhaul social care and help providers recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The committee said successive governments have “failed to deliver” vital reforms to a sector that is in desperate need of extra funding and innovation, two years after Johnson promised to deliver a “clear plan” to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”.
"We cannot afford more broken commitments around care reform; now promised sometime in 2021. Reforms must address decades of neglect over support to carers, younger adults and home care. A long-term funding plan should be part of this, to allow local authorities and providers to innovate and improve services," PAC chair Meg Hillier said.
It is understood progress on the plan over the last few weeks has been stalled by a disagreement between the Treasury and No.10 over how reforms should be funded.
A month ago, the Telegraph reported that a critical meeting between Johnson, Sunak and then-health secretary Matt Hancock had been postponed with proposals unagreed.
The PM’s spokesperson said at the time that reforming social care “has been a challenge for many years” and that Johnson “remains completely committed to coming out with a long-term solution”.
Reports this week suggested ministers had reached an agreement on using a National Insurance rise to fund a cap on social care, along with measures to reduce NHS waiting times. NI contributions could rise by one percentage point under the proposals, The Times reported.
The government has not publicly committed to a specific time frame for the plan, promising in the Queen’s Speech only that “proposals on social care reform will be brought forward” this year.