‘Dangerous’ to consider nationalising social care, says former cabinet minister

Damian Green MP

Incorporating social care into the NHS would be ‘dangerous’ and ‘wholly wrong’, former cabinet minister Damian Green has said.

Speaking during a webinar on the future of social care, the MP for Ashford said while it would be a ‘simple and attractive solution’ that the public would understand, it is the last thing NHS managers want. He said it would be giving them another set of problems.

‘The problem would be just at the point we are getting mental health out of being…the Cinderella service, we would be replacing it with another Cinderella service,’ he told the audience. ‘I very much hope the government doesn’t go down that route.’

Green, who commissioned the government’s yet to be seen green paper, published a report on fixing social care last year. In the document he said reform was needed to provide enough money to plug the gap created by an ageing population; be fair across generations; and increase the supply of care beds and the provision of retirement housing.

During his presentation, he said any reform needed to be attractive to both current providers and potential new entrants. The MP also argued the issue should not be defined as a care and health crisis but a housing one as well.

Green said there needed to be more emphasis on building retirement housing or homes that older people would want to move into. ‘We are pathetically behind on this. We have about the tenth of the level of provision of this housing as they do in Australia, New Zealand and the USA…’

LaingBuisson’s chair William Laing, who also presented during the webinar, agreed with Green’s views on social care being nationalised, telling the audience it was ‘not a terribly good idea’.

He said the care home sector was ‘polarised’, with providers in the north of England ‘financially challenged’ while operators in more affluent areas doing ‘very well’ in terms of underlying profitability. At least, they did until Covid-19, he added.

Laing said it was ‘absolutely inescapable’ that more state funding was needed to pay sustainable fees to providers and higher wages to care staff. However, he pointed out this ‘would be very expensive’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to publish plans on reform by the end of the year.