Story updated 13 July 2022
Boris Johnson’s resignation has raised questions over the delivery of key social care policies.
The slew of government resignations since Tuesday (5 July) has left the children’s minister post vacant and new ministerial leadership for both children’s and adult social care.
Before Johnson decided to stand down as Tory leader on Thursday (7 July), Michelle Donelan quit as education secretary less than two days after being appointed to replace Nadhim Zahawi after his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer. She has since been replaced by James Cleverley.
Before that, Will Quince quit as children’s minister. Though he later returned to the Department for Education (DfE), it was not in his former role. That has gone to Brendan Clarke-Smith, a former teacher who has been given his first ministerial role.
At the Department of Health and Social Care, there is a new secretary of state in Steve Barclay, who has replaced Sajid Javid, whose resignation on Tuesday was the trigger for the end of Johnson’s premiership.
Gillian Keegan remains as minister for care and mental health in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Johnson said he would stay in post until a successor was chosen as leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister. The timetable for this will be agreed next week.
Children’s social care priorities
In the meantime, the UK has a caretaker government which, by convention, cannot enact new policy or alter existing ones, so significant changes will have to await Johnson’s successor.
This will include its response to the wide-ranging recommendations of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel’s report into the murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson and the Competition and Marketing Authority’s (CMA) children’s social care market study.
In May, Quince pledged to publish this before the end of the year, and last month told the Adoption and Fostering Podcast that an implementation board would be set up to take it forward, involving care review lead Josh MacAlister and Ofsted.
Both Quince and Zahawi have expressed strong support, in principle, for the findings of both the MacAlister and the panel’s reviews.
Answering questions in the House of Commons on Monday, Zahawi pledged to respond with “an ambitious implementation strategy later this year” and that the government was “serious about implementing the MacAlister review”.
Care funding reforms
For the DHSC, the key social care priorities are implementing wide-ranging funding reforms next year, including the £86,000 cap on personal care costs, a more generous means-tested system for council support and moves to ensure authorities pay providers a fair fate for care.
These changes are controversial within the sector because of a widespread belief they are underfunded and that councils will lack enough social workers and other staff to carry out the substantial increase in the number of assessments, reviews and care plans that would be required.
They have also been criticised for not tackling the immediate pressures on the sector, manifest in mounting backlogs for assessments and care packages, rising vacancies in the provider sector and mounting pressures on unpaid carers.
In addition, the DHSC is taking forward the draft Mental Health Bill – designed to overhaul the Mental Health Act 1983 – and the implementation of the Liberty Protection Safeguards, which will replace the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.
It is currently consulting on the detail of the LPS but an implementation date for the long-awaited change is yet to be set.
As ever, the political capital accorded to social care will be limited by the two departments’ overriding areas of focus – the NHS for the DHSC, and schools for the DfE – and wider government priorities, notably the cost-of-living crisis and Ukraine war.