It seems that the music paused for a moment and the Social Care parcel has been left in another pair of hands! When Damien Green announced the Green Paper on how to fund and manage social care in the context of rapidly growing demand there was a kerfuffle.
Care Industry News focused on the ADASS response; namely that the sector is already at tipping point with a funding gap. Secondly, where the Green Paper has a focus on the ageing population, Leonard Cheshire point out that the Disabilities (Physical and Learning) Sector is just as big and the crisis is a "blight on the daily lives of disabled people up and down the country". The Guardian called the announcement a missed opportunity, it failed not just to take into account younger people in need of care and the disabled but failed to roll into it the long promised 'Carers Strategy' and failed to incorporate carer representation. The Local Government Association called for councils to have a key role in defining and shaping local care and again calling for immediate action to address immediate short term pressures.
However there was a broad welcome to the direction of travel albeit with a call for greater urgency and the need to build upon the inter-dependency of Health and Social Care.
At the time Jeremy Hunt said “We are committed to reforming social care to ensure we can guarantee everyone dignity and security in old age. It is important we consider a wide variety of views on the future of the social care system – as our ageing population continues to grow it is absolutely vital that we get this right.” So, is it surprising that Hunt's remit has been extended to Social Care and he has picked up responsibility for the Green Paper? Possibly it was the only and inevitable solution since Green's departure from the government.
But, is this extended role a substantive change? The Financial Times tells us there is a sceptical response. A spokesman at Health says 'yes it is'; that where there were three organisations involved before, now there are only two. Plus, Hunt's role as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the appointment of Caroline Dinenage as a minister of Health and Social Care, re-positions Social care at Ministerial level. On the other hand, according to Norman Lamb, ex Minister for Health, while funding still remains with Communities and Local Government, there is no real change at all. And funding is the crux of the matter; in the words of ADASS, "...more needs to be done now to secure extra recurring money to address funding gaps, address continuing service pressures and the stability of the care market".
Rachel Sylvester at the TIMES* says that the funding must follow the ministerial remit that it's absurd that it remains with councils. "If local authorities are funding social care they have a perverse incentive to transfer the cost to hospitals". And this debate doesn't consider the iniquitous situation where some conditions are funded and others are not (viz cancer v alzheimers) and where private funders are subsidising those paid for by the public purse. Hunt's new 'Social Care Parcel' appears to contain a ticking time bomb and needs to be handled with care! "..Mr Hunt is willing to be brave. The only question is whether the Prime Minister has the authority to back him up"
But with all that said... at C&SW we welcome the debate and are pleased to see the integration of Health and Social Care at a Ministerial level even in semantics! We are particularly pleased to see the role requested of Skills For Care in handling the Care Sector Workforce Consultation. We understand that a further consultation questionnaire , with more focus on care needs will be available from Skills for Care shortly. We would urge our members, indeed the whole local care community to respond in your droves to the consultation, and to continue to lobby politicians wherever possible.