Since the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition took power earlier in the week and started outlining its policies, one issue seems to have been conspicuous by its absence: social care.
As I have previously blogged, in the general election campaign social care seemed to disappear off the political radar, despite it being touted as a key issue in the run-up to it being called. Now post-election, it continues to be ignored in children’s and adults services; nowhere in the policy outline was social care mentioned.
Indeed, Michael Gove, the new head of the (swiftly renamed) Department for Education, has said in a letter to civil servants that education is the priority for the department, thus seemingly sidelining children’s services, although he added that this area will be strengthened and reformed, but didn’t elaborate on how.
Also, Andrew Lansley, the new health secretary, has spoken extensively of the plans for the NHS, while adult social care has garnered barely a mention.
This lack of attention is worrying; ask anyone within adult social care and they will say that reform – especially of the way it is funded – is urgently needed. Children’s services also need to be strengthened and supported. They can’t be left to drift as they have done for the past few years.
Leading social care organisations are also worried. Counsel & Care, a charity working with older people, their families and carers, have called for reform of social care to be made a priority by the new government.
Meanwhile, Carers UK’s director of policy and public affairs, Emily Holzhausen said; “We are deeply disappointed that the programme for Government published in the coalition agreement this week does not establish social care as a political priority.
“Clear plans must be brought forward as a matter of urgency, setting out a sustainable funding model for fair, universal, and transparent care services.”
However, despite the worries, I’m trying not to be too negative. It is still very early days for the government and we shouldn’t be too quick to judge – social care is a complicated issue and it may take more time to put together a policy.
Also, Paul Burstow, a Lib Dem MP with a history of championing issues such as social care funding, dementia and adult protection, has been appointed as a minister for state – the rung below cabinet – in the Department of Health. Having someone with in-depth knowledge of and a passion for the issues involved could ensure that they get the attention they need.
But until the government makes any policy announcements, as with everyone else blogging on this in the sector, everything is speculation and educated guesswork.
A final thought; in among all the speculation, there is one decision on social care that will have to be made soon – whether to pass Labour’s Personal Care at Home Bill. The Tories are against it, as are the Lib Dems, who would prefer to use the money for this to give carers extra short breaks, so I think we know what the result will be there.
Do you agree? Please let me know your thoughts below.