First secretary of state Damian Green’s announcement that the government will deliver a green paper on adult social care reform by summer 2018 has met with a cool response from councils.
Green yesterday said an expert panel was being created to shape the document, which will explore ways to better provide care and support for older people in the context of the ageing society.
But the announcement by Cabinet Office minister Green and health secretary Jeremy Hunt was described by lobby group the Local Government Association as no substitute for an improved funding deal for overstretched services.
Izzi Seccombe, who chairs the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said ministers should seek cross-party consensus for reforms in the medium and long term, but could not ignore immediate pressure that services were currently under.
“While planning for the future, and to pave the way for long-term reform, we must address more immediate short-term pressures, such as the fragility of the care provider market,” she said.
“Social care faces an annual funding gap of £2.3bn by 2020. Government needs to follow up today’s encouraging words with action in next week’s Budget, and inject further much-needed funding into social care.”
Seccombe pointed to the hugely-damaging U-turn prime minister Theresa May was forced to pull during this year’s general election campaign, after reform plans contained in the Conservative Party’s manifesto were dubbed a “dementia tax”, as an example of the controversial choices social care reform would entail.
“Despite the best of intentions, we have seen too many failed attempts over the years to deliver a sustainable adult social care system,” she said.
“Governments of all colours, along with several notable independent commissions and reviews have attempted to bring about change but for various reasons, these have not succeeded. This is why cross-party consensus on the way forward is so essential.”
Included on Green’s panel of experts is Andrew Dilnot – tasked by David Cameron with creating a workable solution to funding social care costs in 2010, but whose “care cap” proposals were subsequently abandoned by the Conservative Party.
Among others, Dilnot will be joined by Care Quality Commission chief executive Sir David Behan, Lib Dem care minister turned Social Care Institute for Excellence chair Paul Burstow, and Age UK director Caroline Abrahams.
Announcing the panel’s creation, Green said finding a long-term solution for care that was sustainable would require “some big decisions”.
He said: “In developing the green paper, it is right that we take the time needed to debate the many complex issues and listen to the perspectives of experts and care users, to build consensus around reforms which can succeed.”
The Conservative Party committed to implementing a care cap based on the recommendations of Dilnot’s proposals in 2015 but the idea was dismissed as “unfair” by Hunt in the runup to the launch of the party’s 2017 manifesto launch.
Jeremy Hunt argued that the cap offered too much protection to property owners.
The “dementia tax” changes proposed by the party this year would have taken care users' property assets as well as savings into account when determining their liability for both home and residential care costs.