Cabinet Reshuffle Hints at Future of Social Care Reform

Posted on: December 9th, 2017

Despite being touted for a possible move, Jeremy Hunt has emerged from yesterday’s Cabinet reshuffle with a beefed up role as secretary of state for health and social care- taking on additional responsibility for social care.

The decision to merge health and social care into one portfolio has widely been praised, particularly by doctors with the Royal College of GPs tweeting they ‘welcome’ the move.

There have been increasing calls for an integration of health and social care. Struggling social care has long been blamed for having a knock-on effect on a NHS under pressure to discharge vulnerable patients without adequate community care in place.

The Department of Health already has responsibility for social care, but this function is undertaken by local councils, partly paid for by council tax, and by a central government grant coming from the Department for Communities and Local Government. Some have criticised the rebranding as ‘window dressing’ and is not clear whether the grant will now move to the new Department of Health and Social Care, with this being the clearest indication of the extent of the reform we can expect from this new Department.

Following Theresa May’s majority destroying general election manifesto- with the hurried proposals for reform of social care funding and the disastrous dementia tax announcement – the Government had been very quiet on the challenge of ‘squaring the circle’ of adult social care funding. A long-awaited Government policy paper on social care reform, also known as a Green Paper, proposing reform of social care and support for older people, promised by Theresa May before the snap election was last year quietly delayed until this summer.

A spokesperson for the new department yesterday made direct reference to the Green Paper: ‘The department will be renamed the Department of Health and Social Care, taking on responsibility for the forthcoming social care green paper proposals to improve care and support for older people and tackle the challenge of an ageing population’. It now seems likely that Jeremy Hunt will play a significant role in preparing the Green Paper and gives a significant hint that integration between health and social care will form a central plank of that reform.

Spencer Gardner is an Associate Solicitor in the Court of Protection team.