The Health Secretary has written to MPs announcing his plans for cross-party talks on a long-term solution for the social care crisis.
In a letter shared on Twitter, Matt Hancock asked MPs and Peers to share their ‘views, proposed solutions and concerns’ about reforming the way that people pay for their care. He said this will be followed by a second phase of ‘structured talks on reform options’ in May.
However, Labour has dismissed the process as ‘another consultation that provides no help.’
The cross-party talks were pledged by the Tories as part of their 2019 General Election campaign and were among policies the party planned to implement in their first 100 days of government.
Mr Hancock said in the letter: ‘We need to address the injustices within the system and find a balance between people continuing to contribute to their care without having to face catastrophic costs.
‘As we set out in our manifesto, we will seek to build a cross-party consensus so that the reforms we progress will last long into the future, nobody is forced to sell their home to pay for care, and everybody accessing care has safety and security.”
‘Of course, any solution needs to consider the financial impact on taxpayers as a whole, the competing demands on taxpayer’s money from other public services, and how to fund reform on a sustainable basis.’
Responding to the letter, Barbara Keeley MP, Labour’s shadow minister for Social Care and Mental Health, said:
‘The Prime Minister promised voters that he had a plan to fix the social care crisis but now all we see is an open-ended invitation for comments.
‘As we have repeatedly said, cross-party talks can only be effective when the government comes forward with its proposals for reform. It is clear that it does not have a plan to fix the crisis in social care.
‘Labour has offered to engage in meaningful cross-party talks and we would be happy to do so, but the process outlined by Matt Hancock is another consultation that provides no help to a system in crisis.’
Today I’ve written to colleagues in all parties to initiate talks on social care. We will seek a cross-party consensus – and deliver much needed reform pic.twitter.com/COmON799xs
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) March 6, 2020
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said it was ‘very disappointing’ that the government did not appear to be offering any of their own views on social care.
‘Unfortunately, this announcement will not fill anyone who cares about the future of social care with much confidence.
‘It is always good for Ministers to seek alternative views, but it is very disappointing that they appear not to be offering any of their own at this stage.
‘A cross-party process would surely have a greater chance of success if Ministers were setting out some kind of basis for discussion, rather than leaving it to everyone to pitch in from their own starting point.
‘The Prime Minister has pledged to fix social care and, blessed as he is with a very substantial majority, he has a better opportunity to fulfil that promise than any of his recent predecessors.
‘For the sake of the millions of older and disabled people, and their families and carers, who depend on there being a reliable and effective care service in place, he must follow through.
‘Of course, we are all aware of the many other issues the Government has to deal with, including now Coronavirus, but the refinancing and reform of social care is a pressing priority too and continuing delay simply makes life worse for users, and means there’s an ever steeper hill to climb to restore our care system to a semblance of decency.’
The announcement comes amid growing concerns over how the stretched sector will handle the coronavirus outbreak.
Health bosses said plans are already in place for the emergency registration of retired doctors and nurses to help tackle staff shortages. While health and social care volunteers will be supported to leave their main jobs and temporarily volunteer in the event of a widespread pandemic.
Photo Credit – Parliament