Series of ‘injustices’ embedded in social care system but pandemic delayed reform, Hancock

A series of “injustices” are embedded in the current social care system but long-term funding and reform plans have been delayed by coronavirus, the Health Secretary has said.

Matt Hancock told a committee of MPs that the challenges for the sector are the high cost of providing care and the rising demand for services.

Giving evidence to the Health Select Committee on Tuesday, Mr Hancock also said the Conservatives had made a manifesto pledge to address social care but work had been delayed by the pandemic.

“The current way that the social care system operates clearly has embedded in it a series of injustices that have grown up over time,” he said.

“One is the system of deciding which care is paid for in the social care system and which care is paid for in the NHS which, as you’ll know from your time in my job, was essentially decided over a series of court cases rather than anyone taking a policy decision.

“Then the second aspect is the fact that of course many people, including some very vulnerable people, need care and that care needs to be paid for.

“Some people would like to have more care than can currently be paid for.”

The committee was told that, prior to the coronavirus outbreak, social care was facing a funding gap of about £6.4 billion by 2024-25.

Sarah Pickup, deputy chief executive of the Local Government Association, said this estimate did not include meeting any unmet need, improving staff wages, or providing any new investment.

Asked if he could share his department’s estimate of how much money needs to be invested in social care, Mr Hancock said the figures have not “fully landed” yet.

“I recognise the pressures – the best estimates are that the number of people who will be needing care rises from 730,000 this year to around 820,000 by 2025, and then eventually to over one million,” he said.

“There’s then a question of the pressure on the delivery of the system at the moment, which has also been a challenge because of Covid.

“Then there’s a long-term funding reform question.

“We are currently in the depths of a spending review discussion about exactly the level at which those manifest.”

Asked when the long-term funding settlement for social care and Government plans for reform would be announced, Mr Hancock said a “huge” amount of work is being done.

“We have made manifesto commitments and we are doing a huge amount of work on this immediately after the election.

“Obviously the coronavirus crisis has delayed that work and I think people will understand that.”

He added: “Not that we haven’t been working on social care; we have put a huge amount of money in and actually we can come on, potentially, to some of the reforms we undertook in the heat of the crisis that have made some really positive difference.

“But that is another challenge, but the internal discussions on this have since picked up again.”

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