The health secretary has been criticised by a group of peers after failing to respond for almost a year to a report, which called for the urgent reform of social care.
The House of Lords’ economic affairs committee published a report in July 2019, which recommended that the government immediately spends £8bn to restore social care to acceptable standards and then introduce free personal care over a period of five years.
But the committee chairman, Lord Forsyth took the unusual step yesterday (15 June) of writing to Matt Hancock to remind him that they have still not received an official response to their report.
‘The government is accountable directly to Parliament and it has a duty and responsibility to reply to committee reports in a timely way, usually within two months,’ wrote the peer.
‘You said previously that the Department would not be able to be able to meet the usual deadline, but you must agree that 11 months is not only an inordinate amount of time for us to wait, but is a breach of parliamentary convention.
‘I expect to receive the response to our report imminently,’ added the peer.
‘The social care sector is on the frontline of the current public health crisis,’ the letter adds.
‘This has only served to highlight that its career structure needs urgently to be put on an equal footing with that of NHS workers to recognise its social importance and the skills of its staff. Funding must be made fairer and sustainable for the benefit of this and future generations. Our report sets out how this can be achieved fairly and set out how much it would cost.
‘Social care must be brought closer to the NHS by introducing free personal care. Those in care homes would still pay for their accommodation and assistance with less critical needs like housework or shopping. Those receiving care in their own homes would not have to pay accommodation costs, which may encourage care users to seek essential help with personal care early.’
In response, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We have introduced a wide range of support measures to support the social care sector during this unprecedented pandemic.
‘We remain absolutely committed to bringing forward a plan for social care so everybody is treated with dignity and respect, and nobody has to sell their home to pay for care. The health secretary has already sought views from across parliament and those conversations will continue – but this is one of the most complex issues we face, and it is right we take time to develop a fair, sustainable solution.’
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