A New Dawn For Social Care?
The government seems keen to reinvent social care — but it’s not yet clear how. Here are the key decisions they have to make.
If the early rhetoric of new Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid is anything to go by, the Tories’ manifesto commitment to reform the social care system is, for the first time, back at the top of the government’s priorities.
The Secretary of State told MPs on Monday that his goal, beyond ridding the country of the current coronavirus restrictions, is to find “a long-lasting, sustainable solution to the social care challenge that this country faces”.
In the 2 years that Johnson has been at the helm of the government, we’ve heard this very same message a number of times. On the steps of №10 in July 2019, he pledged to find a cross-party agreement on reforming the social care system, referencing “a clear plan we have prepared”. The Conservative manifesto later in 2019 promised a commencement of cross-party talks within 100 days. Now 18 months and one pandemic later, that plan is desperately needed.
Since Javid’s appointment, we’ve heard some — rather vague — ideas trickle out of government. Alongside Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the fresh-faced new Health Secretary is said to be keen on a tax rise to pay for the reforms. Set that against the manifesto commitment to freeze the “big three” taxes — income tax, VAT, and national insurance — and the potential for executive infighting over the coming months is clear.
Johnson will not countenance a rise in any of those three taxes. What he might countenance, and what Javid and Sunak are now pushing for, is a new dedicated levy to pay for social care. (If you strain, you can hear the Treasury officials quietly crying.)
This fiscally conservative alliance is a powerful one. Javid and Sunak are popular among MPs and the electorate, and are two of the most powerful British Asian voices in politics. Sunak will doubtless be overjoyed that he has a Treasury man in the Department of Health and Social Care.
The debate about whether borrowing, taxes, or cuts should fund the reforms, though, is the least of the government’s concerns. There are a number of big decisions to make about…