Experts are pressing new health secretary Andrew Lansley to commit to immediate talks with other parties on reforming adult care funding to ensure momentum is not lost.
Both the King’s Fund and the Local Government Association have said that the reform process must not be neglected as worries surface that it may not be given priority attention by the new coalition government.
One social care commentator said: “Privately it fills me with foreboding. Crucially it depends on who becomes care services minister. The worry is that it will take time to resurface again.”
The concerns are that deficit reduction will take priority attention and that even if the two parties can reach an agreed way forward the money simply will not be there to achieve a sustainable care funding solution.
In his first major interview as health secretary, on this morning’s Today programme, Lansley was not asked about social care, nor did he mention it, in a discussion that focused entirely on the NHS.
In a statement on his priorities, issued by the Department of Health, Lansley focused mainly on the health service, though did say: “To improve health and well-being, we must offer support, security and services to those in need of personal and social care.”
Carers UK said it was “deeply disappointed” that social care had not been included in the coalition agreement.
A spokesperson for the charity said: “What we want to see is Andrew Lansley working with all parties as all parties wanted before the election to put social care reform on their agenda. It’s something that needs immediate attention.”
Professor Chris Ham, chief executive of the King’s Fund, said: “Politicians from all the parties talked before the election about the need for consensus on the way forward – whether or not this is achieved will be a key test of whether coalition government delivers a more constructive approach to politics.”
The Conservatives plan to allow people to insure themselves against the costs of residential care by paying £8,000 on retirement, a policy many experts have dubbed unworkable because take-up would be too low.
The Lib Dems called for a commission on care funding reform and for full-time carers to have a one week break from their role each year.
The establishment of the coalition government means that the White Paper issued by Labour before the election, key elements of which were opposed by the Tories and Lib Dems, will not be implemented.
Earlier this week, LGA group lead for adult social care Andrew Cozens, predicted the publication of another White Paper on care funding from the new government, setting its direction for reform.
In terms of Lansley’s other responsibilities, Simon Lawton-Smith, head of policy for the Mental Health Foundation, said: “He will need to be a strong voice around the cabinet table arguing the health case, and in particular the need to invest in mental and physical health promotion and early intervention services, to reduce expensive treatment later down the line.”
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