Never so Green
By Guest Blogger JEF SMITH
There was very little for one’s comfort in the Government’s mid-November announcement on the way forward for making policy on social care. It promised no more than a Green Paper, the most preliminary type of consultation document. There was no sense of the urgent crisis both the care sector and the NHS currently face; the accompanying statement had the cheek to congratulate the Government on the extra money already being supplied, though just about everyone else regards that as hopelessly inadequate. If ever there were a case of talks about talks, fiddling while Rome burns, and kicking an issue into the long (green) grass, this was it.
Serious Whitehall watchers will have noted a few other scraps of evidence. First, the announcement came in the name of First Minister Damian Green (no relation). Mr Green, though nominally First Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, actually carries little real Cabinet clout. The absence of endorsement from the Prime Minister herself, whatever her other preoccupations – and they are many! – immediately lowers the status of the exercise.
Secondly, the list of twelve ‘independent experts’ invited ‘to provide advice and support engagement’ included a professor, a doctor, a baroness, a dame and two knights, all very worthy but hardly representative of social care consumers. Most have been around long enough to have been consulted on care’s future many times and to have well-oiled routes into government already. There seems little prospect of fresh thinking there.
And thirdly there is the overt admission that the exercise will relate exclusively to old age and therefore excludes ‘younger’ disabled people, who are the other component of adult social care. The fact that there will be a parallel exercise focusing on disability poses more questions than it answers. Does this presage further organisational fragmentation? Will the definition of old age be raised, to exclude people in their late sixties and even seventies from currently available benefits and services? And crucially, will there be a separate pot of money for this seriously vulnerable group?
Jeremy Hunt was 52 this month. I wouldn’t be surprised if we were still discussing these matters on his sixtieth birthday.
- The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.