End of year target for announcing social care reforms ‘not straightforward’, admits Hancock

Plans to overhaul social care in England and Wales could be stalled due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Government has suggested.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had pledged to announce changes to social care and how it is funded by the end of 2020 and for the reforms to be in place by 2024.

He had fired the starting gun on cross-party talks on what alterations would be involved since winning the general election in December.

One of his key election pledges was that no one needing care would have to sell their home to pay for it but he has not yet spelled out how that will happen.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, admitted that hitting the end-of-year deadline for announcing the reforms was “not straightforward” due to the impact of coronavirus and signalled the target could be missed.

Mr Hancock, when asked at the briefing when the Government’s social care overhaul was likely to be rolled out, said: “The time frame has been clear, which is that we have got to get these reforms done in this parliament and the Prime Minister has previously said we will get them set out this year.

“That was before coronavirus – we will still try to do that but it is not straightforward.”

Social care has been put front and centre during the pandemic, with Covid-19 involved in more than 12,700 deaths in English and Welsh care homes since May 22, according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures.

Mr Hancock said he was “determined” that the social care changes would be rolled out following the new recognition of its importance.

“One of the positive things amid the terrible things that have happened during this crisis is that people have recognised social care and just how important it is,” he said.

“We need to follow that up with reforms to the way social care is supported and make sure more people get that dignity in their older age, and that people of working age get the support they need.

“I am determined to push forward the social care reforms that I know so many (people) are interested in.”

Some of the changes required had become evident during the current health crisis, said Mr Hancock, including providing increased financial support and altering how it is paid for to remove the “injustice” involved for some care recipients.

ONS data shows that on May 22, 62 deaths involving Covid-19 took place in care homes and 95 occurred in hospitals.

This was the first time since March 19 that both of these totals had been under 100.

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