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Queen's Speech lays out proposals for “long term reform of social care”, further devolution

Government plans to seek cross-party consensus “urgently” in order to bring forward the necessary proposals and legislation for long-term social care reform in England were among proposals unveiled in the Queen’s Speech yesterday, but concerns have been expressed that "we've heard it all before".

The government said this reform would “ensure that the social care system provides everyone with the dignity and security they deserve and that no one who needs care has to sell their home to pay for it.”

In its briefing notes for the speech, it said it would provide councils with an additional £1bn for adults and children’s social care in every year of this Parliament. In addition, the government will consult on a 2% precept that will enable councils to access a further £500m for adult social care for 2020- 21.

“This funding will support local authorities to meet rising demand and continue to stabilise the social care system. This will help pay for more social care staff and better infrastructure, technology and facilities,” the government claimed.

In response Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “The Local Government Association has long called for a cross-party consensus on how we tackle the adult social care crisis, and as a cross-party organisation, we will be happy to host the talks. We are pleased the new Government has committed to achieving this.

“While much of the immediate business for the Government will be around Brexit, it should not delay in delivering a long-term funding solution which secures the future of adult social care, alongside reform of children’s social care.”

But Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of the LGiU think tank, warned: “A commitment to achieving a cross-party consensus on a sustainable social care system is right, of course, but we’ve heard it all before.

“A social care green paper was initially promised two and a half years ago. Are we building on that work or starting again? (And, of course, it’s the NHS, not social care that gets funding enshrined in law.)”

The government also announced it wanted to “expand the benefits of devolution across England and put more trust in local people to choose what is best for their communities”.

It added that it would look to do “more devolution deals, level up powers, implement an effective funding model for Mayoral Combined Authorities and invest further in infrastructure.”

Cllr James Jamieson called on the government to “build on previous work to transfer power to local communities to deliver on its pledge to move away from ‘Whitehall knows best’.”

He added: “Councils know their areas best and can make a huge difference to the lives of their residents and the communities where they live by creating more school spaces, building more homes, boosting economic growth, improving our roads and equipping people with the skills they need to succeed.

“Handing widespread powers to local areas and making sure they are adequately funded is essential if all parts of England can improve vital services such as housing, transport, and health and social care.”

The LGIU’s Carr-West also welcomed the "commitment to further devolution" but expressed scepticism, saying: “It’s essential that we give local communities more control over the places they live, but we must learn the lessons from the devolution process of 2015 and ensure that we do not focus on process and growth at the expense of democracy and public service reform."

Adam Carey