Jeremy Hunt accused of broken promises for delaying social care green paper

NHS funding boost and need to revise spending plans given as reason for social care green paper delay
Social care

NHS funding boost and need to revise spending plans given as reason for social care green paper delay

  • NHS in England given six months to come up with new spending plan
  • Jeremy Hunt wants to integrate social care plans with new NHS plan
  • Critics say delay would mean further disruption to fragile social care sector
Social care
Picture: Charles Milligan

The government’s green paper on social care has been delayed until the autumn to give NHS England time to plan its budget.

Health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed the delay in the Commons yesterday, the same day the government announced the NHS would receive a £20.5 billion-a-year funding boost for four years.

However, the government came under fire from unions, including the RCN, and social services directors for failing to address funding for the social care sector in the announcement.

'Sensible' to delay publication

The green paper on social care was due this summer and is expected to detail how the government intends to improve care and tackle the challenges of caring for an ageing population.

But with the NHS given six months to come up with a new spending plan, Mr Hunt told MPs it was sensible to delay publication of the paper.

‘Because we want to integrate plans for social care with the new NHS plan, it does not make sense to publish it before the NHS plan has even been drafted, so we now intend to publish the social care green paper in the autumn around the same time as the NHS plan,’ he told the Commons.

Concerns raised

Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, attacked Mr Hunt for deferring the green paper and omitting social care in general.

‘Is it not a total abdication of responsibility to have left social care out of this settlement?’ Mr Ashworth asked. ‘This is not a credible long-term funding plan for our NHS; it is a standstill settlement for the NHS.’

Scottish National Party MP Phillipa Whitford raised concerns about what delaying the green paper would mean for social care, especially considering the age profile of many social care clients.

‘If it is to come only in the autumn, social care may not get real funding until next year,’ she said. ‘With the demographic challenge that the secretary of state mentioned, that is just too far away.’

Broken promises

Not-for-profit representative group, the National Care Forum (NCF) said the delay would cause further disruption to an already fragile sector.

NCF executive director Vic Rayner claimed the government was breaking its promises. He said: ‘We were promised a green paper on social care this summer, way before the current announcements on funding and a ten-year settlement for the NHS’ she said.

‘The continual pushing back of this key policy agenda is a disservice to people who need and use services, and the wider community.’

Ms Rayner added that delaying the paper to coincide with the NHS plan risked leaving social care secondary to the health service's priorities, rather than being developed hand-in-hand.   

Training and apprenticeships

Labour MP Karen Lee challenged Mr Hunt on the abolition of the nursing bursary in England and the fall in the numbers of people taking nursing degrees.

He said the loss of the bursary was a ‘very difficult decision’ but added: ‘When there is a reform to higher education funding, there is always an initial dip in applications,’ he said.

Mr Hunt pointed to the introduction of nursing apprenticeships as a solution to reverse the fall in training numbers.

In other news