Ex-health secretary Jeremy Hunt predicts social care reform needs extra £7bn a year

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said any social care reforms could require £7 billion extra per year, along with higher taxes to fund the rise.

The Prime Minister has promised to publish a plan for reforming social care this year, although current Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the coronavirus outbreak could see that timetable pushed back.

The Conservative manifesto said the changes would ensure that “nobody needing care should be forced to sell their home to pay for it”.

Mr Hunt (pictured) – Boris Johnson’s rival during the final of last year’s Tory leadership contest – said the overhaul was likely to require tax hikes to keep up with the ageing population and the increase in wages for carers.

Speaking at a virtual Institute for Government event, the Commons Health Committee chair said: “We are all getting older so we’ve all got to pay for it, which is the short answer.

“I recognise that is going to mean an increase in taxes and I think we have to be honest with people about that.

“Precisely which taxes I think is a matter for the Chancellor but I would favour a progressive approach to that decision.”

Mr Hunt, who was the longest serving health secretary in British political history during his six-year tenure, said demographic changes, along with the results of the Dilnot Commission, meant heavy spending would be required as part of the promised reforms.

Sir Andrew Dilnot, who published his cross-party commission’s recommendations for social care reforms nine years ago, told the health committee this week that the current state of funding was a “stain on us as a nation”.

Mr Hunt said: “If you look at just the demographic changes between now and the end of this Parliament, and also the increase in the national living wage that the Government has promised for the lowest paid, those two factors alone mean that the annual social care budget – £18 billion a year – is going to need to go up by £4 billion a year just to cope with the the additional older people and increase in the national living wage.

“The Dilnot reforms will probably be another £3 billion per year when they get up to full strength – that would take five years to do.

“You’re talking about probably a £7 billion increase in the social care budget as necessary if we’re going to look after older people with the dignity and respect that most of us think we should.”

The former foreign secretary said he was “cautious” about “big structural reorganisation” but cited the example of shared electronic records, single budgets and care plans as ways of better integrating health and social care.

The 53-year-old added: “I also think we need to look at the training and development of staff because at the moment what happens is that the social care staff feel very undervalued compared to NHS staff.

“I think we’ve got to recognise the incredible work of social care staff and try and have a career structure for social care workers in the way that staff in the NHS have a career structure.”

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