Jeff Prestridge  

Government slow on care reforms

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

It is unfortunate – some would say scandalous – that the government has yet to publish its proposals for social care reform, and in particular the funding of long-term care.

Ideas were meant to have been published as long ago as last summer when Novak Djokovic was winning his fourth Wimbledon men’s singles final and England were beating India four-one in a five-match test series on home turf despite the best batting efforts of Virat Kohli.

Caroline Dinenage, minister of state for care, has valiantly attempted to deflect any flack by blaming that big, nasty – and convenient – chestnut called Brexit as one of the main reasons for all the delay.

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It is funny how Brexit gets rolled out as an excuse, when it has not got in the way of the government’s plans to rack-up probate fees for thousands of grieving families – a move quite rightly condemned by critics as a cynical tax disguised as an administrative fee. Scandalous, again.

Governments, it seems, will move heaven and earth when it comes to raising taxes, but suddenly go to ground when big public spending issues rear their ugly heads.

Remember the government’s decision in 2015 (when David Cameron ruled the roost) to push back the proposed introduction of a £72,500 social care cap to 2020 on cost grounds, only for the idea to be scrapped altogether late last year?

It is also a little rich that, in spite of bucket-loads of procrastination, Ms Dinenage has attempted to paint a rosy picture about the government’s work in finding an affordable solution to funding long-term care.

A few weeks ago, in response to questions in the House of Commons, she said: “There has been a failure of successive governments to get to grips with this very thorny issue of the long-term funding of adult social care. We are the government who have decided to tackle the issue. We will no longer put it in the ‘too difficult’ pile, and we will be publishing this document [the green paper] shortly.”

Given the government’s fragile state, I will not be putting any money on the green paper ever seeing the light of day. But then I am a cynic who has seen green papers on long-term care come and go more regularly than buses on London’s Kensington High Street.

I am in the Nadra Ahmed camp when it comes to long-term care. Late last year, the chair of the National Care Association told Financial Adviser that the delays were of no surprise.

She added: “Successive governments have raised the issue of social care only to kick it into the long grass. This is a mistake when you consider that more people are living longer and needing care. Dementia and obesity are adding to the catalogue of problems that the social care sector faces, both practically in terms of physical and psychological care.”