The Green shoots of recovery?
By guest blogger BOB FERGUSON
Damian Green’s report, Fixing the care crisis, was greeted with a weary shrug of the shoulders – another solution among many. How soon we forget. Before his sacking, he was the minister responsible for drafting the adult social care green paper. For that reason alone, his document should have been closely scrutinised. Yet, for whatever reason – green paper fatigue, perhaps – it has not received the attention it deserves.
Green is consumed by the belief that the state pension and its support apparatus hold the key to social care funding. His scheme follows that lead; with the keystone universal care entitlement backed up by an insurance-based care supplement. Free social care is dismissed as a socialist fantasy, although there isn’t a cigarette paper between his non-means-tested entitlement – which includes basic accommodation costs – and what most people understand by “free”.
As admirable as Green’s intentions are, a huge question mark hangs over the sustainability of the entitlement. His description of the state pension exemplar as a “safety net”, whose function is “to keep all pensioners out of poverty”, could be instructive, suggesting a similarly wretched level of expectation is in store for the entitlement. Should that happen, the chances of it funding “high quality, personalised care” for all would be killed stone dead.
In Green’s vision, the care supplement’s range of insurance packages would provide “larger rooms, better food, more trips, additional entertainment and so on” – “something visible”, in his terms. But he has another, more fundamental, purpose in mind for the supplement: satisfying the “need to increase private funding” to “sustain the care system over the long term” – something invisible, presumably.
As he told a parliamentary committee, “some of the care supplement money would … benefit state-funded patients as well”, confirming the supplement would have the pernicious effect of institutionalising cross-subsidy. There’s more, the entire set-up could be torpedoed by the paradox at its heart: the supplement’s additional funding stream, which he calculates is critical to the security of the system, would be – wait for it – voluntary.
Here’s a sobering thought: had not Damian Green lost his post when he did, the green paper would have been published last summer (he claims), and the sector would probably be grappling with the conundrum posed by the architecture of this report: twin pillars or twin imposters? For all that, it’s worth reading, if only because what might have been might still be.
- The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.