Speaking 24 hours after the publication of his report, Derek Wanless says its reception “couldn’t have gone much better”.
Besides enthusiastic applause from social care stakeholders and widespread media coverage, Wanless has been invited to serve on a Department of Health review of adult care funding, which will provide the basis of its 2007 comprehensive spending review (CSR) bid.
He says: “That’s the most hopeful thing. That must mean it’s got a better chance of staying alive and being implemented.”
The government’s mantra that the 2007 CSR will be a tight settlement and chancellor Gordon Brown’s promise of large increases for education should caution against over optimism for social care funding.
But Wanless, unlike many in social care, does not see the CSR as a “last chance”, claiming the subject will be a big issue at the next general election, expected in 2009.
Wanless’s costings are based on projections about demand for care and unit costs. He says the latter should rise by 2 per cent a year in real terms until 2026 “to cope with the volumes of care and to provide the quality we need”.
But he says this is more contentious than his demand projections and suggests this may be where the government disputes his findings.
The report’s call for an end to means-testing and the introduction of a universal entitlement to care based on need, through the partnership model, “would change the very nature of the way people look at social care”, he says.
He adds: “To the extent that social care is associated with the poor then all those things that have been said for decades about services for the poor being poor services are true.”
Making social care a universal service will, over time, go a long way to giving it the same status as education and health, he claims.
There are elements of the report which will not make easy reading for ministers. It says there is insufficient evidence behind the assumption that investment in preventive care will reduce demand for intensive services, which is at the heart of the adult care green paper and the white paper on health and social care.
He says: “There’s more work that needs to be done on what they are trying to achieve. I don’t think the green paper or the white paper has got there yet.”
Following high-profile reports into NHS spending, public health and care services in Wales, he has said this will be his last funding review. Social care leaders will be hoping his swansong was not in vain.