Failure to fix social care system is ‘stain on our nation’, says former government commissioner

‘It’s extremely disappointing and that’s probably a rather polite way of putting it’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 05 May 2021 08:45

The repeated failure to fix the social care system is a “stain on our nation” and “extremely disappointing”, according to an expert who was tasked with advising the coalition on potential reforms.

The remarks from Sir Andrew Dilnot, who chaired the Commission on Funding Care and Support in 2011, came as charities reacted angrily to reports ministers will delay unveiling any plans to overhaul social care until after next week’s Queen’s Speech. 

Similar to his predecessors, Boris Johnson pledged to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all” when he entered No 10 in the summer of 2019, but the prime minister is yet to outline proposals.

Giving his assessment of successive government’s failures to act on social care, Sir Andrew told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s extremely disappointing and that’s probably a rather polite way of putting it.

“This is a problem that has affected governments of all persuasions. We had a Royal Commission in 1998 in the Blair-Brown government. That government didn’t manage to do it. The Cameron government legislated but then after the 2015 election pulled back from it.”

“All political parties and all of us have failed to get this done,” he added. “It is a stain on our nation. We saw through Covid how difficult it could be to be in the social care sector, both as a provider and as a consumer.”

Sir Andrew suggested the country “desperately” needed to rectify the social care system, adding: “Sorting this out will be a great credit to everybody — we should get on with it.” 

But on Tuesday, No 10 would only say ministers would set out their plans shortly, fuelling expectations there will be no social care bill in the government’s programme for the coming year when it is set out by the Queen next week.

Addressing potential delays from the government in unveiling its plans for social care reform, Caroline Abrahams, the director of Age UK and co-chair of the Care and Support Alliance (CSA), accused ministers of “putting up with a grossly underfunded apology for a system that went past its sell-by date years ago”.

“To have the government constantly flip-flopping over what kind of changes they want to propose, if any at all, is profoundly upsetting for everyone involved – older and disabled people who use care, and all those who work so hard to provide it, whether paid or unpaid,” she added.

“The prime minister is on the record, not once but repeatedly, as saying his government will fix social care, and it is a reasonable expectation that he will deliver in good faith.”

Pressed on the failures to act in a separate interview on the Today programme, Nadhim Zahawi, the minister responsible for the vaccine rollout, said: “We are making sure that we work cross-party on addressing the issue of social care and that’s a big commitment and a focus for this government.”

But quizzed on when proposals would be published, Mr Zahawi repeatedly declined to do so, suggesting the presenter was “doing the soundbite of give us a date”.

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