Cameron culls social care ministers in reshuffle

There has been a mass clearout of social care ministers in David Cameron's government reshuffle, raising questions about a loss of expertise and continuity in policy for the sector.

David Cameron has said social service bosses should face the sack if they fail to protect children. Photo: Mikael Buck/Rex Features

David Cameron’s government reshuffle has triggered a mass clearout of ministers with responsibility for social care and welfare.

Both ministers with responsibility for social care and social work – Paul Burstow (adult services) and Tim Loughton (children’s services) – have been removed to the backbenches, triggering concerns of a loss of expertise and momentum in both areas.

Burstow’s former boss, Andrew Lansley, has also been removed from his post as health secretary to become leader of the House of Commons, while children’s minister Sarah Teather, who had responsibility for disabled children’s issues, has also lost her job.

There was also a clearout of ministers at the Ministry of Justice, with the departure of secretary of state Ken Clarke, prisons and youth justice minister Crispin Blunt and Jonathan Djanogly, who had responsibility for family justice and Mental Capacity Act-related issues.

Clarke has been replaced by Chris Grayling, who has left his post as employment minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, where he was responsible for the controversial programme of reassessing incapacity benefit recipients on their fitness to work.

Disability minister Maria Miller has also departed from the DWP, with her promotion to the Cabinet as culture secretary, while Grant Shapps has left his housing and homelessness brief to become a minister without portfolio at the Cabinet Office.

The clearout drew a critical response from some in the sector. “Health, social care and disability held in such low regard – leadership changed in a swipe,” said Bill Mumford, chief executive of voluntary care provider MacIntyre and chair of Voluntary Organisations Disability Group.

Warm tributes poured in for Loughton’s record in championing social work and looked-after children, while Burstow said he had lost his “dream job” as care services minister, where he had had the “opportunity to make a difference in a policy area I care deeply about“.

Meet the new social care, welfare and justice ministers

Adult social care

 Jeremy Hunt (Conservative)

Post: Secretary of state for health

Career high/low: Appointment as health secretary (high) after almost losing his job as culture secretary (low) over allegations of improper contacts with News Corporation ahead of his decision to approve its now defunct bid to take over BSkyB.

Implications for social care: As with all previous postholders, the NHS will be his priority, but he comes to the role with a bulging social care in-tray in the shape of the White Paper and draft Care and Support Bill to reform the sector’s law and funding, which were only published in July. As shadow minister for disabled people from 2005-7 he reviewed the Conservatives’ disability policies and championed independent living, but this is unlikely to provide much of a guide to his approach to social care.

 Norman Lamb (Liberal Democrat)

Post: Minister of state for care services

Career high/low: Not being appointed care services minister when the coalition was formed in May 2010 (low) over alleged tensions with incoming health secretary Andrew Lansley concerning the breakdown of cross-party talks on funding social care before the 2010 election. He played a role in helping to reform the coalition’s NHS reforms to reduce the emphasis on competition in health services by threatening to resign from his then role as Nick Clegg’s chief adviser (high).

Implications for social care: Lamb’s appointment has been well-received by the social care sector because of his experience as Lib Dem shadow health secretary from 2006-10, during which time he argued strongly for an improved funding settlement for social care. This will be at the top of his in-tray with the government apparently committed to implementing a cap on lifetime care costs, as recommended by the Dilnot commission.

Welfare/benefits

 Esther McVey (Conservative) – photo credit: Michael Dunlea/Rex Features

Post: Minister for disabled people

Career high/low: Successfully persuaded former housing minister Grant Shapps to visit families living in her Wirral constituency’s ‘ghost streets’, leading to Shapps allocating more than £71m to families living in empty and abandoned streets (high), but also appeared alongside ex-Hollyoaks heartthrob Will Mellor on Channel 5 karaoke game show “Night Fever” (low).

Implications for social care: Hard to tell at this point. Former TV presenter McVey knows plenty about the inner workings of the DWP, having spent the last two years as chief assistant to outgoing employment minister Chris Grayling. Little is known of her personal opinion on the coalition’s welfare shake-up, although her voting record shows that she has been fiercely loyal to the government in votes including on welfare reform, social care funding and the NHS reforms. McVey is a patron of a disabled children’s charity and recently appealed against the proposed closure of a Remploy factory in her constituency.

 Mark Hoban (Conservative) – photo credit: Mica Theiner/City AM/Rex Features

Post: Minister of state for employment

Career high/low: Appointed financial secretary to the Treasury in 2010 (high) but then named in investigation by The Independent into banks’ lobbying ministers to water down banking reform (low).

Implications for social care: Social workers know only too well the impact of the government’s incapacity benefit reforms on their clients and Hoban will quickly find himself at the centre of the storm of opposition to the controversial work capability assessment. As news of the reshuffle broke his predecessor as employment minister, Chris Grayling, was being heckled in a parliamentary debate as he defended the government’s use of Atos Healthcare to run the assessments.

Justice

 Chris Grayling (Conservative) – photo credit Stephen Simpson/Rex Features

Post: Secretary of state for justice

Career high/low: After becoming an MP in 2001, Grayling earned a reputation as a Tory attack dog for putting heavy pressure on two Labour secretaries of state, leading to their resignations (high). He was demoted from shadow home secretary to employment minister following the 2010 general election; a demotion largely blamed on an incident a few weeks before, when he was recorded suggesting Christians who run bed and breakfasts in their own homes should have the right to reject gay couples as guests (low). He is known as a strong voice for the right in the Conservative Party.

Implications for social care: Grayling’s unapologetic support for the controversial work capability assessment while at the Department for Work and Pensions prompted a backlash from disability campaigners. His appointment to the Ministry of Justice comes at a time of a radical programme to reform the justice system – and there is some speculation that it will result in increasingly hardline policies. The Prison Reform Trust has called on Grayling not to abandon his predecessor Ken Clarke’s emphasis on rehabilitation in penal policy.

It is not known who will be taking responsibility for youth and family justice, though these responsibilities are likely to be shared between Conservatives Helen Grant and Jeremy Wright.

Children’s social care

 Edward Timpson (Conservative) – photo credit: Steve Back/Rex Features

Post: Children’s minister with responsibility for adoption and children in care

Career high/low: Timpson was selected as the Conservative candidate in the by-election for Crewe and Nantwich following the death of Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody in April 2008 – and was subjected to a particularly vicious Labour campaign to paint his him as a “toff” (low). However, Timpson’s own campaign focussed on local issues, such as crime, antisocial behaviour and the closure of post offices. He was elected in May 2008 having gained 17.6% of the vote from Labour (high).

Implications for social care: Before his election, Timpson practised as a family law barrister specialising in cases concerning vulnerable children. He sat on the children, schools and families select committee and is chairman of the all party parliamentary groups (APPGs) on adoption and fostering and looked after children and care leavers. He is also vice chairman of the APPG for runaway missing children. According to his website, Timpson’s parents have fostered 87 children over the last 30 years and he has two adopted siblings. His predecessor, Tim Loughton, has praised Timpson’s “great experience and empathy with children in care especially”.

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