This has been adult care’s week in the sun. Not only did the launch of a consultation on its future top the agenda on the Today programme, but Gordon Brown put his own stamp on it with a speech on the need for reform.
Ministers now admit the system faces a massive funding gap – around £6bn in 20 years’ time – as the numbers of older and disabled people grow. They continue to stress that services must become more personalised and intervene earlier, which may help control costs as well as improve care. But these alone will go nowhere near filling the gap and making the system fairer, the key issues the green paper, now due in 2009, must address.
The momentum built up this week must not be lost amid Labour’s declining electoral prospects and the parlous state of the public finances. Social care, like pensions and NHS investment, is a long-term issue, and the government should match the courage it has shown in these other areas – including, if necessary, through tax rises.
This article appears in the 15 May issue under the headline “Time for stout hearts”