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Hunt outlines the seven principles underpinning the Social Care Green Paper

The Health and Social Care Secretary spelled out the seven principles that will underpin the green paper on the reform of social care for older adults this week.

Jeremy Hunt’s uncontroversial list includes quality, whole-person integrated care, control, respect and nurturing of the workforce, support of families and carers, sustainable funding and security for all.

Hunt admitted that the social care system in England was far from fair, and “we need to do better”.

And, after multiple failed attempts to reform it over the past 20 years, he added: “I do rather feel the weight of stalled reform programmes on my shoulders”.

Many of the social workers in the audience would have liked him to start with his final points – concerning inadequate funding of the sector, and poor access.

The Green Paper will explore where future social care funding should come from. He said any solution would be premised on the idea of shared responsibility for care between the state and the individual, albeit with the latter’s liability for costs limited by a cap.

Hunt said we should celebrate also social care’s 70th birthday – alongside that of the NHS – by marking the 1948 National Assistance Act that abolished the Poor Law and enshrined the idea of shared responsibility.

That “continues to be right”, with the individual expected to contribute to their care “as they prepare for later life”.

Commentators saw this as a hint that younger adults might be expected to start insuring against care costs under one or more green paper options.

Hunt said: “There may be changes that are equitable and achievable for younger people that would not be either of those for the generation approaching retirement.”

The Care Act, which remains on the statute books, was supposed to implement the capped cost model of funding before being cancelled.

And, while the Green Paper will be published before the summer, many commentators believe the sector is no further forward than the publication of the Dilnot Commission’s report in 2011.

The confusion which surrounded social care during the 2017 General Election campaign caused a rapid unravelling of the proposed policy.

Hunt spoke of the need for further integration of care, announcing radical pilot schemes in Gloucestershire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire under which, over the next two years, every person accessing social care will get a joint health and care assessment, a joint care plan where needed and a joint personal budget.

Regarding ‘control’, Hunt re-stated the importance of personalised care, transparency and access to information.

He also pledged to promote social care careers and pathways into nursing and committed to a new, fully aligned, 10-year NHS and social care workforce strategy.

There was no promise of extra, emergency funding that the social care system desperately needs.

Simon Bottery, Senior Fellow for Social Care at The King’s Fund, said: “There is a long history of politicians failing to translate positive words on social care into meaningful change, but it is essential that this time the government finally delivers it.

“To achieve lasting change, it will be vital for politicians from across the political spectrum to come together to develop a cross-party consensus.

“It is disappointing that Mr Hunt did not mention the urgent need for short-term funding. As important as long-term reform is, the government also needs to find more money to address the £2.5 billion funding gap the social care sector faces by 2020.”

Read Hunt’s full speech.

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