Boris Johnson resignation raises questions over social care policies

Slew of resignations mean new leadership for children's and adult social care in government, amid substantial issues facing sector

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson (photo: Prime Minister's Office)

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 She has since been replaced by James Cleverley.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.

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4 Responses to Boris Johnson resignation raises questions over social care policies

  1. Anonymous July 7, 2022 at 7:21 pm #

    What a mess! You really couldn’t make it up ?‍♂️

  2. Tahin July 8, 2022 at 10:38 am #

    This analysis is based on the supposition that the current Tory consensus on how to fund and deliver care services and the ideology that shapes social care policies is fixed by the present personalities making up the departments. The reality is actually much more straightforward. Tory policies are driven and embedded by a shared doctorine that transcends the personal. They don’t need Thatcher to lead them now or ever again. She fixed them on a course so even the “decent” conservatives look on the NHS as something that needs to be ‘reformed’, education as a battleground for “values”, social work as a waste of public tax spending, remember the Big Society, immigration by the ‘wrong sort’ as a threat to “social cohesion” and so on. Visceral it ain’t.

  3. Adjeya July 9, 2022 at 3:25 pm #

    If there were less social workers constantly politicising everything we might actually get some respect from ministers. They out themselves on the line to get elected, docisl workers just get a job after an interview.

  4. Chris Sterry July 12, 2022 at 8:48 pm #

    Political disruption and inactions which have been plaguing Social care for as long has it has been around and in doing so, is not only creating a major crisis in Social care but this also transcends to health services as one can’t exist without the other.

    Both need to be working together in all and every respects, both working to place the individuals requiring care and support at the centre, so that the systems fit directly to each individual, rather than each individual having to fit the systems, which are extremely lacking in appropriate direction.

    The lack of funding, especially in social care is causing many critical needs to be unmet, as well as moderate needs not even being considered. This eventually leads to moderate needs to transform into critical needs, causing much more expense than if the needs had been dealt with when they were originally assessed as being needed.

    Funding for social care can’t be left to undone and needs to be dealt with as a matter of extreme urgency, as one more second delay, with cause many avoidable consequences and if left much longer lead to many deaths, which will be laid at the door of the respective Social Care authorities when it should be at the door of the Government and current and many past Ministers of State, who should be made accountable, rather than the extremely over worked and extremely stressed social care officials.

    Families are already doing more than they should reasonably need to, causing families to be in need of additional health care, which, if the funding was made available would not have occurred to the degrees it is doing.

    Saying there is no money is not an excuse.

    Place the blame where it should always have been placed, at Government.