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Can the government’s proposed green paper transform social care?

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Last November, the government unveiled plans to reform social care in England for older people. The proposals are to be published as a green paper by summer 2018, setting out longer-term discussions and consultations.

The announcement was met largely with praise after the then-first secretary Damian Green outlined the government’s vision for social care:

“To achieve reform where previous attempts have failed, we must look more broadly than social care services alone. Our vision for care must also incorporate the wider networks of support and services which help older people to live independently, including the crucial role of housing and the interaction with other public services.”

Shifting responsibility

Development of the green paper initially sat with the Cabinet Office, with the aim of taking a collaborative, cross-government approach. However, following the Prime Minister’s cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, the Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt is now set to take lead responsibility.

Social care has always fallen within the Health Secretary’s duties, but the Department for Communities and Local Government has largely dealt with the appropriate funding. While this is unlikely to change, Mr Hunt’s responsibility for the green paper will mean that the Health Department has a greater influence on how social care funds are distributed.

Reforming the culture of care

While some have raised concerns over whether that initial broad perspective will give way to a more narrow focus, the green paper is set to go ahead alongside existing healthcare plans on supporting younger people with disabilities. Having been described as a “parallel programme of work”, there are high hopes that both issues will coincide, influencing overall social care reform.

The County Councils Network is also arguing for a shift in culture to coordinate care changes with housing reform. Finding long-term solutions in these respects will help to ensure that people can receive the right care at home, without unnecessary hospital visits or struggling to find reablement services afterwards.

This green paper has the potential to introduce greater collaboration with other areas of social development, as well as addressing the financial balance between state funding and individual liability. We look forward to seeing the government’s plans when they’re published later this year and sharing our thoughts on the future of social care.