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Jeremy Cooper

3 reasons why a delayed green paper is a good thing

I’ve got loads of time for the great ADASS President Glen Garrod, but for once I’m going to disagree with him (sorry Glen!). On behalf of ADASS, he described Jeremy Hunt’s announcement of a delay in the social care green paper as a “deeply disappointing”.

I actually think it is a good thing, for three reasons:

  1. If published now, it would be focussed on the wrong questions. It is trying to answer a whole set of questions on the future of funding older people’s social care. A delay gives a chance to reframe the problem, in particular:
  • Challenging the arbitrary distinction between care for over 65’s (the current scope) and those under 65.
  • Addressing how to tackle the health and care interface. The decision to link up the Green Paper with NHS plans is therefore a smart idea.
  • Addressing how to communicate social care funding to the public. As the 2017 General Election showed, talking about changing funding for social care faces a catch 22 situation – no-one understands the current system. The sticking point is not ‘can we make social care funding fairer?’, but ‘can we explain how a new system will be fair, or at least fairer?’.
  • Addressing the question of what would be a sustainable level of funding for social care. The focus on the funding mechanism can be a distraction from the bigger issue – the level of funding.

2.  It was unlikely to lead to change anyway. There have been countless green papers and commissions on the future of social care. I have yet to hear a convincing argument about why this time will be any different!

3.  The sector will have more time available to make change happen at a local level – at least for a few months, because less time will be spent in discussions about policy. Change in social care primarily happens on the ground. The annual ADASS Budget Survey last week revealed that only 28% of Directors are fully confident of delivering their share of the £700 million savings planned for this year, let alone what is required in future years.

Social care policy and practice is an absolutely critical issue for our country. We need both a local and a national focus that leads to a rethink in the social contract between state and citizens around care. I don’t believe that the Green Paper, as is, would have led to this. Let’s use this delay to change the conversation.

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