The UK’s next prime minister must publish the government’s long-awaited social care green paper ahead of the autumn’s conference season – or risk jeopardising the wellbeing of millions of vulnerable people, local government leaders have warned.
Lobby group the Local Government Association said the government had delayed the publication of the green paper three times in the last two-and-a-half years and it was vital for the vision to be aired ahead of September’s party conferences.
It said that whether Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson succeed Theresa May as Conservative Party leader and prime minister in this month's leadership election, they must progress reform of the nation’s social care system so that debate can start and Spending Review preparations can commence.
The LGA said adult social care services – delivered at local level by upper-tier and unitary councils – face a £3.6bn funding gap by 2025 and that ministers need to address the projected deficit in the next Spending Review while a long-term sustainable solution is developed.
Social care reform has been a political football for more than two decades. The most recent attempt was the Dilnot Commission, set up by then-prime minister David Cameron just weeks into the coalition government in 2010.
Cameron’s commitment to implement a system based on Dilnot’s proposals by 2020 bit the dust along with his premiership in 2016, and prime minister Theresa May’s attempt to broach social care reform in the run-up to 2017’s snap general election proved politically toxic and was dubbed a “dementia tax”.
Ian Hudspeth, who chairs the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said the association's analysis showed that closing the £3.6bn gap would require a real-terms annual funding increase “similar” to the 3.4% annual real-terms increase pledged to the NHS in the years to 2023-24.
"More than 12 months has passed since the government announced yet another delay to the publication of its social care green paper,” he said.
“Those who rely on vital care and support cannot wait any longer.
“Our adult social care system is creaking under increasing pressure which impacts everyone with care and support needs, preventing them from living their lives to the full. It also has consequences for all those involved in adult social care including providers, the workforce and the NHS.
“Councils are having to make incredibly difficult decisions within tightening budgets and cannot be expected to continue relying on one-off funding injections to keep services going. What is needed is funding certainty for both the immediate and long term.
“That is why the government needs to commit to meeting our 10-week deadline, before the party conferences start, to finally publish its much-delayed and long-awaited green paper outlining what the future funding options and possible solutions to this crisis are.
“Local government stands ready to host cross-party talks to kick-start this process and make sure we get the answers and certainty we need, so that people can continue to receive essential care and support.”