Remedying a sector in crisis: The case for reinstating a Social Care Minister
Billy Davis of Hft says in order to effectively address the multiple issues facing social care, the portfolio for social care needs to be reinstated to a Minister of State in the next Government.
Social Care is a sector in crisis
The financial crisis in the social care sector is well-documented, with the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) 2016 State of Care report concluding that the sector has reached a “financial tipping point”.
Local authority budget cuts, unfunded increases in the National Living Wage and challenges around the Apprenticeship Levy are continuing to place significant financial pressures on the sector, with Hft’s own research estimating that funding cuts could see 30,000 jobs lost from the sector by 2020.
Whether May, Corbyn or another party leader finds themselves in Downing Street on 9th June, social care must be a key priority for the next Government.
At Hft, we believe that, in order to effectively address the multiple issues facing social care, the portfolio for social care needs to be reinstated to a Minister of State in the next Government.
Why a Minister of State?
A Minister of State is a senior ministerial position within a Department, junior only to the Secretary of State. In 2008, Gordon Brown appointed Phil Hope the first Minister of State for Social Care, to give the sector a ‘boost’ as the Transforming Care Green Paper worked its way through parliament. The portfolio remained under a Minister of State until 2016, when Theresa May reshuffled her Cabinet and allocated it to a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State; a junior ministerial role.
Whilst the Government has stated that “There is no correlation between the seniority of ministers and the priority given to policy areas", we believe that, as a policy, social care has been ‘demoted’ by the May Government.
In our manifesto, we highlight how the resources available to Ministers of State, but not Parliamentary Under-Secretaries, help to foster internal party and cross-departmental collaboration, which we believe are essential in effectively tackling the challenges faced by the social care sector. We also showcase case studies from how the four Ministers of State who have been responsible for the social care portfolio have used this to push the policy agenda forward.
A Minister of State would also provide stakeholders with a clear contact point within Government; for organisations such as Hft to consult with on issues of policy, rather than having inter-related issues split across portfolios, as we have seen with sleep-ins.
Philip Hope was appointed to guide the “Transforming Care” Green Paper through Parliament. With Chancellor Philip Hammond pledging a Green Paper on the future of social care funding by the end of this year, there is a happy symmetry and an opportune moment for a reinstated Minister of State for Social Care to guide this vital green paper through Westminster.
The case for a Minister of State for Social Care is clear. It will have a meaningful impact on the sector, in terms of clout and visibility, and would be a cost-neutral move on the government’s part. We call on the next government to be bold, and reappoint a Minister of State for Social Care to help safeguard some of the most vulnerable adults in society.
To read the manifesto in full, please visit: www.hft.org.uk/ge2017