Last week I sat gripped by the
first public outing of the Secretary of State; sitting for two and a half hours
in front of the Health and Social Care committee answering questions from the A
to Z of health reform, with a limited focus on social care.
Hats off to Matt
Hancock, he appeared poised, calm and extremely clear in his brief – no mean
feat – and tribute to a very effective induction programme. And I suspect a
wider interest in the arena that this role will helpfully draw on. My
predominantly positive response to his appearance can be found here.
So, imagine my surprise when
in the midst of all of this – in response to a direct question from the panel –
the Secretary of State announced that the green paper would cover ALL of adult
Or to use his words ‘The Green Paper will cover Adult Social Care
as a whole’. The clip where he says it can be seen here.
Quite an announcement – and of
course yet another change in focus to this long awaited, much anticipated, highly
charged green paper.
Whilst I know Recess has begun, and the
parliamentarians are on their jollies, the rest of Whitehall remains in place,
and I anticipated a wide flurry of excitement following this announcement.
will the parallel work stream that has been exploring working age adults be
amalgamated into the existing green paper? (the visibility of this work has
been extremely low, therefore it is of concern that there is little to draw
How will the expert
advisory group formed in the New Year be amended to ensure the
interests of working age adults are represented? (again a group where the
output or voice has been less than obvious).
How will people who use services
in either the working age or older people’s category ensure that their voices
are heard within the green paper?
How will any of this be achieved for a paper
that is intended to be launched in the Autumn, alongside the 10 year NHS plan, in
relation to which we are very aware that significant amounts of work are
already in train?
These are very serious questions
– and ones that I think we need substantive answers on now, not when Parliament
returns in the Autumn. The current silence from the Department on these issues
Having listened to Matt
Hancock’s quote a number of times more, I am beginning to be more concerned
that rather than saying something new, he is an early sign up to the growing
mantra around the integration of health and social care.
His talk of
interoperability and integration on a system wide basis, the need to look at
health and social care as a whole – are these all watch words to indicate that
the sole departmental focus on social care in any forthcoming paper will be on
the points where it interfaces with health? Much as it has ever been, I hear the
cynics cry, look at the BCF funding, look at the obsession with delayed
discharge and the blame game directed at social care, and many more examples.
However, if the whole future facing ambition of social care, and indeed the
creation of a system to fund it is, is geared around the pinch points, the
interoperability zones, the connectors, then we will be poorer as a society at
the end of it. At the outset, when Jeremy Hunt announced that the Green Paper
would be produced alongside the 10 year plan, I was concerned you had the bizarre
scenario of a consultative document being presented at the same time as a
formulated plan. A 10 year plan that is required to be accepted to secure
substantive agreed funding, read alongside a green paper that is likely to tie
itself up in knots around the long term approach to funding in a parliamentary
climate that is febrile at the best of time, never mind when the politically
‘toxic’ issue of social care funding comes on the agenda.
It is beginning to
feel like there is only one way for this to go…
Matt Hancock can change this,
and the appearance in front of the select committee showed in glorious
technicolour just what a battle we are up against for meaningful parity of
esteem for social care. However, as I noted in my initial response to the select
committee appearance: “The regular
acknowledgement by the Secretary of State of the importance of social care
within his responses was reassuring. However, in both questions and answers
relating to Brexit and other issues, it is clear that both the focus of the
committee and the department remains firmly in the grips of a health agenda. We
need the Secretary of State to take his inclusive approach to social care to
the next level and ensure that resources of his department give adequate
recognition to the life changing impact of social care."
So until then, watch out
cynics - another might be joining your ranks, as like the rest of Parliament, Pollyanna has gone on holiday…..