The Department of Health is considering extending its consultation on the long-term funding of adult social care to allow for key stakeholders to get their views in on time.
David Behan, the director general of social care, made the surprise announcement at the end of a green paper meeting of stakeholders in London – part of the Big Care Debate on the Shaping the future of care together document.
Behan told participants the consultation, which has just under a month left to run, might continue until November 20, rather than November 13, to ensure the DH receives as many views as possible. A DH spokesperson was unable to say when a decision would be taken on extending the deadline.
More time needed to get wide variety of views
At the heart of the green paper is a proposal to establish a national care service, providing all people with needs above a single England-wide threshold with access to some public funding for their care.
The DH said it has already received more than 4,000 online responses and heard from thousands of people through its regional events.
But it is concerned to ensure it gets as wide a number of responses as possible to ensure a broad consensus when it publishes a white paper, as planned, early next year, before the general election.
Health secretary Andy Burnham told the meeting: “This issue of care and support is at the very top of my agenda. I want to ensure that we create an unstoppable momentum so that the next parliament has a clear agenda to turn this into reality.”
There are also believed to be concerns that the complexity of reforming adult social care means that some stakeholders might struggle to meet the current deadline for responses.
The meeting followed a party conference season in which the Labour and Conservative parties both issued headline-grabbing policies on adult care funding.
Labour and Tories issue care policies
Prime minister Gordon Brown used his conference address to announce plans to introduce free personal care at home for people with critical care needs.
The following week the Tories unveiled proposals for an insurance scheme enabling people to have their residential care costs met for a one-off payment of about £8,000.
This political dimension to the reforms was acknowledged by Behan, who said: “I’ve worked in social care for 31 years. This is the first time this issue has been addressed in any seriousness at any time.”
He added: “It’s seriously good news that’s its commanding the attention of politicians and members of the public and it is, as the secretary of state [Andy Burnham] said, ‘a moment to be seized’.”
Adult green paper: Can it plug the growing gap in services?
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