Matt Hancock Claims Tories Will Finally Deliver Social Care Reform But Still Cannot Say When
Health secretary Matt Hancock once again refused to outline exactly when the government's plan to fix social care will be announced (Alamy)
The health secretary Matt Hancock said the government remained committed to fixing social care but once again declined to say when exactly a proposal would be outlined.
He was speaking ahead of the Queen’s Speech today where the Prime Minister will outline his legislative agenda for the next year, which campaigners had hoped would finally contain details of the planned reforms.
Boris Johnson entered Downing Street in July 2019 promising to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”, adding that would be “with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve”.
But almost two years on nothing has been announced, and today Hancock once again could not say when actual legislation would be introduced.
Speaking to Sky News he said the Queen's Speech will be "jam-packed" with measures to "level up" the country and deliver on the Conservatives’ manifesto commitments.
But he remained light on actionable specifics when it came to discussing social care. "This is an incredibly important area. We are committed to bringing forward reforms on social care – we are committed to that in our manifesto," he said.
"We will be bringing forward a long-term plan for reform of social care as we come out of Covid, so we can return to delivering on those manifesto commitments that we made.
"We have seen the importance of social care through this crisis. That has strengthened the need for reform, the need for integration with the NHS.”
Appearing on BBC Breakfast he acknowledged more resources are needed to address the "significant injustices" in the social care system.
Hancock said: "There are a number of significant injustices in the way that social care is organised right now. One is that some people – about one in 10 – have these very, very high costs.
"It is very hard to know in advance who that is. Making sure that together as a society we can help people with those costs is important."
He added: "We put more money into the system each year. We put an extra billion pounds in last year but I think, as a society, we should really look after people in their older age and it is something that we need to put more and more resources into."
His predecessor as health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said he hoped a cap on “catastrophically high” care costs will be announced in the Queen's Speech.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today Programme he said: "It's an incredible worry for people. It's a lottery. You don't know, that could be you.
"I think in a civilised society we should find a way of taking away that worry.
"I think there's a big misconception here that this is sort of helping people with expensive houses in the southeast pass on their inheritance."
Another former Cabinet minister, Conservative MP Damian Green, agreed having a cap on care costs was how to stop people having to sell their homes to pay for social care.
But he told Sky News he was frustrated it had taken so long for the issue to be addressed, having commissioned a government green paper on social care when Theresa May was Prime Minister back in 2017.
"I didn't expect the full details in the Queen's Speech, the government produced a white paper on integrating health and social care a couple of months ago and said they would do it this year, which I took as a sign they were going to do it with the comprehensive spending review that we get in the autumn,” he added.
“There's a certain sense in that. I am absolutely insistent that this needs to be the year for action and decision rather than kicking the can down the road any further."
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy accused Hancock of repeatedly kicking the can down the road on social care.
"Not ruling it out, but not ruling it in – that's basically what we have had for a really long time," she told Sky.
"It was 22 months ago that the Prime Minister said he would fix social care.
“They have refused to speak to other political parties, they haven't brought forward any concrete changes.
"This Queen's Speech is the moment where they have to start delivering for Britain.”