JRF: UK governments fail to learn from each other on social care

Governments across the UK have done little to learn from each others’ approaches to adult social care since devolution, a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report said today.

The report said administrations would have to do much more to learn from each other in the next decade to cope with the downturn in public spending.

It said the Joint Ministerial Committee, which brings together representatives from the four nations’ governments, had never addressed social care during its relatively few meetings.

This is despite different policies being pursued such as the introduction of free personal care for older people in Scotland and the stronger pursuit of personalisation in England.

Government evaluations of social care policies have also largely focused on the four nations separately, despite the interdependence of the care systems.

The report pointed out that though social care itself is a devolved service, there is a non-devolved “secondary system” of social care support for older and disabled people in the shape of benefits such as attendance allowance.

This means government proposals to transfer money currently spent on AA into English social care budgets in last year’s green paper would inevitably affect funding policies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, the JRF report said this was only “weakly acknowledged” in the green paper, which mentions the devolved administrations only once in its 132 pages.

The report said this “tends to reinforce stereotypes held in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that some of the Westminster ministries are unwilling to engage with the intricacies of the devolution settlements”.

It said the “unprecedented” levels of public spending of the past decade had enabled governments to improve care services “without significant political cost”, but this would not be repeated in the coming funding downturn.

The report concluded: “The need to learn from each other, even if policies differ somewhat, will become much more acute in the next decade”.

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