Tag Archives: social care reform

Coalition kicks social care reform into long grass

The wait is finally over for social care; now we know what the coalition’s plans are for the sector.

Looking at what the government has published – see here for the full rundown – it is a mixture of reform and continuing existing policy.

Firstly, as expected, Labour’s National Care Service plans have been abandoned. This is clear from the announcement that a new commission on long-term care will be established to report back within a year.

I’ve said before that the last thing the sector needs is yet another commission on the future of long-term care. We had that last year with the Big Care Debate, and others previously. Precisely what differences a new commission will find I don’t know. It just seems like a way of kicking the issue into the long grass and delaying some difficult decisions. Again.

Also, the lack of reference to disabled people in the plans – one mention under the Access to Work proposal – shows the main thinking of any reform is geared to older people.

But interestingly, it says the commission will consider several options; not just the Conservative plan for a voluntary insurance scheme, but also Derek Wanless’ partnership model, where the state and the individual both contribute to care costs.

This is significant because when the results of the Big Care Debate came out, the partnership model was most popular among respondents, and some third sector organisations had also publicly backed such a scheme. It also shows that the Tories may be backing away from their widely-derided option.

Elsewhere, the existing personal budgets and direct payments schemes are to be extended, giving more service users control over their care. This is no surprise – it fits nicely with the coalition’s plans to devolve more power to communities as part of their ‘Big Society’ reforms.

Despite rumblings that some social workers are losing faith with personalisation, the extension of it is generally good news for service users who want to take control over their care, and means no significant upheaval for adult social work departments.

Also, as expected, there will be greater integration of health and social care funding, to focus on preventative action, access to respite care will be improved and Access to Work will be reformed.

So, while there are positives in the announcement, the overriding sense is of disappointment. Firstly that disabled people seem to have been overlooked, and that the much-needed reform of long-term care has again been put back until at least next year. The whole sector has been crying out for reform for years, and another commission – to tell us what we already know – does not help. Why can’t the information in last year’s Big Care Debate be used to put together a coalition white paper on social care reform? Or is that too obvious?

A blog on the plans for families and children will also appear later.

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What will new government bring for social care?

After all the courting of the past few days, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have finally decided on a political marriage. But what will this mean for social care?

Now the dust is settling, here is a little of what is known, plus some conjecture and guesswork.

Firstly, it means that Labour’s plans for a National Care Service are dead. The Tories always opposed it, and the Lib Dems also had problems with it, so it’s a definite no-go. This means that social care will go back to square one, waiting again for the reform it so badly needs.

On the upside, it looks likely that plans for a set of national eligibility criteria for social care services, proposed by Labour, will be brought in as the coalition parties also both support it. This should end the ‘postcode lottery’ of unfairness in social care and can only be a good thing.

Now, things become less clear; we know there will be big public sector spending cuts in the Budget, which will probably be in June. Both parties have denied that it will hit frontline services, but councils will have to make some big savings and services could be hit – such as scrapping some services that are not perceived to deliver value for money – and eligibility criteria could be ramped up again.

I suspect that a new White Paper on the future of social care may be commissioned in the near future. The Liberals are in favour of (yet another) commission on reforming care funding, but the Tories aren’t, so action may come relatively quickly – we all know the problems in the sector, they just need to be addressed.

Whether the Conservatives’ stated plan for a voluntary £8,000 insurance scheme to pay for elderly residential care comes to pass remains to be seen.

Both parties were relatively light on detail about reform in their respective manifestos, but there were differing ideas, such as the Lib Dem idea of giving all carers one week of respite, so it is hard so say in which direction the government will go.

Also, remember there were the secret cross-party talks about the future of social care earlier in the year – which Andrew Lansley, the new health secretary, scuppered – could anything come out from that?

Hopefully in the coming weeks we will hear something more concrete about what will happen to social care. The sector needs reform quickly, so the coalition needs to work together to find the best solution – whatever that is…

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Little honesty in social care debate

So, the political mud-slinging has begun in earnest. As the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats all strive to tell you how bad the others are (or would be), reasoned debate goes out of the window.

The Tories have landed the first blow, accusing Labour of planning a £20,000 “Death Tax” to be levied on all estates after death.

To ram the point home, a new poster was revealed depicting a gravestone engraved with ‘RIP Off’ (see what they did there?) and the slogan: ‘Now Gordon wants £20,000 when you die.’

Health secretary Andy Burnham has rejected this accusation (or hinted that the party is planning it, depending on which paper you read), saying that “firm proposals” will be set out before the election – one assumes he means the White Paper on adult social care funding, which is still being promised, although time is fast running out if it is to appear before the election.

Currently, Labour is sticking to its line that it is considering the outcomes of the Big Care Debate, which took place last autumn after the release of the green paper on the future of adult social care funding.

The Conservatives have said even less, apart from their £8,000 voluntary insurance scheme.

Responding to this, another other related stories, Stephen Burke, chief executive of Counsel and Care, a charity that works with older people, their families and carers, has appealed for an “honest and serious” debate that recognises that better care will cost more, and that radical reform and proper funding is required.

While many people in the social care sector will agree wholeheartedly with that call, the chances of such a debate happening are virtually nil.

Also, any hopes of a cross-party consensus on the future of social care – something various social care commentators have called for – now appear dead and buried.

With the parties now getting into the swing of electioneering, everything they say will be geared to getting your vote. So a reasoned debate on the future of care funding will not happen, because it will require some tough – i.e. not popular – decisions to be made, if a crisis of care is to be averted. No politician is going to say anything that might lose them votes.

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Filed under adult social care, Social care funding