Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has been named as secretary of state for health and social care in today’s Cabinet reshuffle.
Speculation had been rife about a potential change in role for Hunt, with tips that he was to become the new business secretary, after what has been dubbed the worst winter crisis the NHS has seen in years.
But after more than an hour with prime minister Theresa May at No 10 Downing Street, he emerged with his extended job title and role.
Adult social care green paper
As previously, Hunt and his department – renamed the Department of Health and Social Care – will have responsibility for both health and adult social care policy. But the department confirmed that it will be given responsibility for the green paper on social care for older people, which had previously sat with the Cabinet Office.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “From today the Department will be renamed Department of Health and Social Care, taking on responsibility for the forthcoming social care green paper which will set out the Government’s proposals to improve care and support for older people and tackle the challenge of an ageing population.
“All costs associated with changing the Department’s name will be kept to a minimum.”
The green paper is designed to produce a long-term and sustainable solution for funding and providing social care to a fast-growing population of older people.
It is due to be published by the summer and will be subject to a full public consultation.
The change in Hunt and the department’s titles is also likely to reflect a desire to project a greater status for social care within government. This marks a change from Theresa May’s first reshuffle, in July 2016, in which she downgraded the post of care minister from minister of state level to the more junior parliamentary under-secretary of state.
‘Social care crucial in its own right’
The Association for the Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) said the reclassification of the Department of Health was a “welcome recognition of the importance of social care”.
Glen Garrod, ADASS vice president said: “ADASS has long called for a more coherent approach towards health and social care, and ensuring that the responsible Government department does this is an essential first step.
“We hope the Secretary of State will see social care as crucial in its own right, and not just viewed through the prism of what it can do for healthcare. Social care is responsible for over 1.4 million jobs, and supports over 1 million of our most vulnerable adults. With a funding gap of over £2 billion, this will be one of the most essential tasks for the new Department to get to grips with in making sure that a long-term, sustainable funding solution is provided to address this. The upcoming green paper on social care, which is expected in the summer, is an ideal opportunity to do so.”
Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board said: “It is vital that adult social care is placed on an equal footing to the NHS so the Government needs to follow up today’s encouraging step with action to inject further much-needed funding into social care in the final Local Government Finance Settlement.
“This is the best way to ensure people get the care and support they deserve and to alleviate the pressure on the NHS.”