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Thursday, 26 April 2018

Damian Green calls for 'radical and brave' change to tackle social care problems

Written by Richard Wheeler, Elizabeth Arnold and Dan O'Donoghue

Theresa May's former deputy has called for "radical and brave" change alongside extra cash to help social care services.

Conservative former cabinet minister Damian Green said a forthcoming Government document outlining future proposals for the sector must seek to address the short and long-term challenges, as he also called on parties to work together.

He added he "agrees with all those who say we need more funding" although warned against rolling social and healthcare cash together.

One consequence of such a merger could be that social care becomes the "Cinderella of the health system" by never being treated as a priority when money is allocated, Mr Green said.

His remarks came after Labour used an Opposition Day Debate to warn of a "growing funding gap" in social care which must be filled.

Shadow health minister Barbara Keeley told MPs it was plain to see the strain social care was under from the weight of growing demand, reducing supply and the lack of funds from Government.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Green said: "I agree with (Ms Keeley) that there does need to be radical change but I would gently put to her and her colleagues that in this area - which is long-term, complex - that indignation is not enough.

"That actually simply saying 'we must spend more money' at the same time as saying 'but we must restrict the amount of money we take from other people'... doesn't cut it.

"There does need to be radical change. The green paper needs to be radical and brave.

"And that's because although in this debate, as in the wider debate on this issue, a lot of people talk about how we're living in an ageing society - as a society we haven't remotely adjusted to what that means yet."

Mr Green said the UK's population is projected to grow by around 10 million over the next 40 years, with the highest growth from older people - particularly among over 75s.

He added the Government faces short-term challenges over capacity and quality of care, with these becoming more difficult in future with a need to keep people active and "in the workforce longer" as it is good for their health - plus ensuring people live in appropriate housing of their own for longer.

He said: "In the end, the nub of this issue will come down to funding."

Mr Green added it is a "no-brainer" that social and healthcare need to be organisationally better integrated, but warned of "serious dangers" by rolling the funding together.

Sarah Wollaston, Tory chairwoman of the Health and Social Care Committee, spoke of the importance of taking a cross party approach to social care.

She said: "Some of the very difficult funding decisions and challenges and the amount of money that is needed would actually favour using a cross-party consensus approach to look at all the options, build consensus and help explain that to the public and actually get this delivered."

Ms Keeley earlier said: "It's quite clear from all of this that there is a growing funding gap in social care which must be filled.

"The Local Government Association has said that our social care system needs an immediate injection of £1.3 billion to fill the gap and that's projected to rise to £2.5 billion by 2020 according to the King's Fund.

"But since then we have seen the system begin to crack still further from under the pressure of Government funding cuts."

Care Minister Caroline Dinenage hit back telling MPs "Labour's recession" had a real impact on the social care system - which had been brought "to its knees".

Ms Dinenage said: "It simply isn't true that this Government is failing to deal with or acknowledge this crisis.

"I can honestly say with my hand on my heart their party does not have a monopoly on care or kindness.

"Local authorities will receive a real terms above inflation increase in their funding profile, we have announced significant dedicated funding for social care."

Labour's motion, which included calls for the Government to meet the funding gap in social care, was passed unopposed by MPs.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Dave Cheskin / PA Wire.