Hunt says Green Paper will make system less ‘random’

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jeremy Hunt has indicated that the Green Paper on older people will propose reforms to make the social care system less ‘random’.

In evidence to the House of Commons Health Committee at the end of last month, Hunt said he would be taking on responsibility for this Summer’s Green Paper which he described as ‘a very important piece of cross-Government work’.

He explained further saying: ‘Part of that work is looking at all of the financial issues around social care, so the strategic reforms that I think we all accept on all sides of the political spectrum that need to be made to the social care system to make it sustainable going forwards to deal with pressures, that is now my department’s responsibility to think through.

‘The truth is there are two sets of forms we need to consider. The first is the longer-term funding changes which is, put very simply, is the fact that most people save for their pension but they don’t tend to save for the social care provision they need and it’s very hard to find a way to do that but we need to address that because its random and many people have no social care costs while others will have hugely expensive social care costs when they are old.

‘And then there are the short-term pressures in this sector after having its budget cut after the financial crisis of 2008. That budget has now started to rise but it’s still not at the levels that it was at before. It’s under very, very sustained pressure and I think we have to find a solution to those short term pressures as well as part of this process.’

‘I think we will continue to have a mixed economy [with state and self-funding] but I don’t think the risk pooling part of the social care sector works at the moment. It is very random. If you get dementia, for example, you could end up losing absolutely everything because there is a reasonably high chance that you will end up in a care home and end up being cleaned out which wouldn’t happen if you had a different illness. So that’s why we need to have this review as there is an unfairness as to how the system has evolved over the years.’

He said that, despite the Conservative Party having ‘setbacks’ in the election which may have been linked to attempts to reform social care, Theresa May ‘cares about the issue deeply’ and had tried to address it during her time as Prime Minister.

He said he would want long-term plans for the NHS and social care to be considered together as they are interrelated but would not go as far as joining them both together in the Green Paper.

Hunt also said that Government would be looking at funding models from all over the world as part of the review process.

Meanwhile, The House of Commons Communities and Local Government and Health Committees have launched a joint inquiry into the long-term funding and provision of care which will feed into this summer’s Green Paper.

The inquiry seeks to ‘identify funding reforms that will command broad consensus to allow progress ensuring the long-term sustainability of both the health and social care systems’.
Written evidence on how to fund social care sustainably post 2020, bearing in mind the interdependence of the health and social care systems, and a mechanism for reaching political and public consensus on a solution, should be submitted by 7 March.

The committees are expected to report their findings in May.

Councillor Izzi Seccombe, chairman f the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: ‘The Committees are absolutely right to focus on long-term funding solutions and how to build political and public support for them. We do not need a major overhaul of our care and support system; the Care Act provided that and the vision it sets out in legislative terms enjoys widespread support. What we need is consensus on funding solutions so the Care Act vision can be realised.

‘We will be submitting evidence to this inquiry which we urge is acted upon to fully inform this summer’s Green Paper and possible subsequent legislation.’

At the beginning of the year the Department of Health was renamed the Department of Health and Social Care, following a cabinet reshuffle.

Jeremy Hunt was renamed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with the reclassified department taking on responsibility for the upcoming Green Paper which will set out the government’s proposals to improve care and support for older people.

Hunt said: ‘Changing the name of the department doesn’t address the issues of social care funding and integration on the ground. But symbolism does matter in politics and this is the first time in this country that we have secretary of state who has social care in their job title and their job description and I think that is important. And I think it indicates that the Prime Minister, because these decisions are made by the Prime Minister, that she attaches a lot of importance to addressing the pressures in social care.’

The decision was welcomed by the Association for the Directors of Adult Social Services. Vice president Glen Garrod said: ‘This is a welcome recognition of the importance of social care … we hope the Secretary of State will see social care as crucial in its own right, and not just viewed through the prism of what it can do for healthcare.’

LaingBuisson founder William Laing added:‘The Department of Health has always had strategic responsibility for social care, so nothing of substance has changed. However, it is good to see Jeremy Hunt sending a message, in his new title as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, that he takes the social care part of his brief very seriously.’