The government has renamed two Whitehall departments as part of Theresa May’s Cabinet reshuffle yesterday.
The Department for Communities and Local Government is to become the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), while the Department of Health will be the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
The prime minister’s changes appear intended to elevate two of the government’s priority issues, tackling the housing crisis and integrating health and social care, although it is not yet clear if there are wider policy changes.
The communities department was already responsible for housing, leading critics to dismiss the move as largely symbolic. But former Conservative chairman Grant Shapps told BBC Newsnight yesterday that the addition would give more focus to the government plans to build more homes.
Sajid Javid, who will now be known as the housing secretary rather than the communities secretary, commented on the new name. “Building the homes our country needs is an absolute priority for this government and so I’m delighted the prime minister has asked me to serve in this role,” he said.
“The name change for the department reflects this government’s renewed focus to deliver more homes and build strong communities across England.”
Matt O’Connell, national housing advisor at the homeowners’ association CLA, pointed out on Twitter that “the department is in the process of significantly increasing its housing policy team so it's more than a rebrand”.
MHCLG is currently advertising for several positions in housing policy and building safety (the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry will continue this year) on the Civil Service Jobs site.
According to Gavin Freeguard, head of data at the Institute for Government think tank, the last time that “housing” was in the department’s title was when between 1951 and 1970, when it was named the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.
He also said that health and social care services have been in the same department in the past, most recently in 1988.
The health department already oversaw social care policy, while funding is provided by DCLG (now MHCLG) to local authorities. It has been announced that DHSC will now be solely responsible for the government’s long-awaited green paper on adult social care, which is expected in the summer, but further details on additional responsibilities are expected in the coming days.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt kept his job despite speculation that he’d be moved to another department.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “From today the department will be renamed Department of Health and Social Care, taking on responsibility for the forthcoming social care green paper which will set out the government’s proposals to improve care and support for older people and tackle the challenge of an ageing population.
"All costs associated with changing the department’s name will be kept to a minimum.”