Anger at lack of social care reform
Nearly two years after prime minister Boris Johnson announced on the steps of Downing Street that he would “fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared”, the government has yet to reveal any hint of reform of the social care sector.
Those expecting an announcement in the Queen’s Speech yesterday were left disappointed as Johnson vowed yet again that reform was coming but gave no clue as to precisely when that might be and what form it might take.
The only mention social care received in the government’s plans was that: “proposals on social care will be bought forward” but an accompanying briefing note seemed to imply this referred to integration with the health service rather than the radical reform of funding being universally demanded across the sector.
The lack of any substance on reform in the speech was made more frustrating by the fact that influential figures within the care sector had signed an open letter a week earlier to the prime minister calling for a “1948 moment” for adult social care to establish a long-term and sustainable future.
After the Queen’s Speech, social care leaders and representatives queued up to express their disappointment and to berate ministers over lack of progress.
Vic Rayner of the National Care Forum, which represents not-for-profit providers, unleashed anger at the scant attention given to reform.
“Proposals on social care reform will be brought forward’, those were the nine tiny words that were uttered today in relation to a reform priority that will impact millions of people. It’s been two years since this government made a commitment to reform social care and today’s announcement delivered a full five seconds of focus on social care,” she said.
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said it was “disappointing and disheartening” that no clear proposals for reform seemed to be on the horizon.
“… the Government has once again kicked the issue into the long grass, which means the very real risk that no real progress will now be made on this issue during this Parliament. Social care reform is desperately required, and we need a timetable for reform now, not at some distant future point, and this must be coupled with significant long-term investment,” he said.
Mike Padgham, of the Independent Care Group, called the lack of progress a betrayal.
“How dare the Government delay reform of social care yet again? Older and vulnerable people have been betrayed and reform has been pushed down the road to some indeterminate time. Yes, social care was mentioned in the Queen’s Speech but in reality, the Government was just paying lip service to the reform that is now so long overdue,” he said.
Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, called the Queen’s Speech a “missed opportunity” and questioned whether the sector could continue to function without urgent reform.
“Without the much needed, not to mention heralded, reform it is questionable as to how much longer the sector can be expected to limp on. A sector that supports and employs vast swathes of the population cannot be ignored. We stand ready and willing to help the Government deliver its manifesto commitment, but the Health and Care Bill which has a focus on the NHS, is not the vehicle to deliver this huge shift as it will not produce the system change that is necessary to ensure the future sustainability of the sector,” he said.