Real ‘care crisis’ is lack of council funding and staff, Jeremy Hunt warns ministers

But government poised to reject bid for independent experts to ensure enough staff – because it would cost too much

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 23 November 2021 10:03
MPs vote to approve controversial social care proposals

The real social care crisis – a chronic lack of funding and staff – is being ignored while controversy rages over the watering down of promises to cap lifetime costs, Jeremy Hunt says.

The former health secretary warned the government must act, even as it is poised to reject his bid for independent experts to assess how many staff are needed – because it would be too expensive.

Mr Hunt is tabling an amendment to the health and care bill, on Tuesday afternoon, to require ministers to publish the assessments, but predicted it would not be accepted.

“For people working on the frontline in social care, the workforce crisis, the core funding received by local authorities, are actually much more pressing issues and we should be talking about those as well,” he said.

The amendment is backed by around cross-party MPs, including Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, and more than 60 organisations and charities,

Experts would report if too few people are being trained to deliver services, but Mr Hunt said of the government: “They are unlikely to accept this amendment today. They’re worried about cost.”

He told BBC Radio 4: “We’re going on a bit of a diversion. There is a crisis in social care and it’s not really about how we calculate eligibility for the cap – it’s about the funding that local authorities get.”

Mr Hunt was speaking after Boris Johnson won the Commons vote on the diluting of care reforms – forcing less well-off pensioners to pay higher bills – but with his majority slashed from 77 to just 26.

The former health secretary predicted the defeat will not be overturned in the House of Lords, but warned of public anger, saying: “It makes it a harder package to sell to the whole country.”

One crossbench peer and health expert, Baroness Finlay, suggested peers will try to improve the help being offered on lifetime costs, depending on an impact assessment.

“It may be that we will say to the Commons, ‘can you think again?’. It may be that we come up with constructive amendments to improve what is on the table at the moment because, clearly, there’s a lot of disquiet,” the professor of palliative medicine said.

And Mr Hunt said the government will have to concede ground in the future, saying: “In time, people will successfully make the case for the way the cap is calculated to be more generous.

But he played down the long-term impact of the prime minister’s shambolic speech to the CBI conference, saying David Cameron and Theresa May had faced far worse criticism.

“It wasn’t a great moment and it hasn’t been a great month for the government,” Mr Hunt told Times Radio.

But he added: “I was in the cabinet for nine years from 2010 and, frankly, there’s never been a time when there weren’t noises off in Westminster, there weren’t backbench MPs with complaints about the way the government is operating.”

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