One year on

It was little over a year ago that the Government announced a further delay to the publication of their adult social care green paper. It was against this backdrop that we decided to produce our own green paper, ‘The lives we want to lead’. Drawing on the extensive work that we and many others had already conducted, it was written in only five weeks. Its launch marked the start of a two month consultation period, during which we held five focus groups across the country, more than 1,700 members of the public were polled on key questions, and more than 560 individuals and organisations submitted their responses. Our follow up report, setting out our findings, their implications and key recommendations based on the consultation was published two months later.

In the twelve months since our green paper was published, the Government has delayed, delayed again, and delayed once more its own. It is now approaching two and a half years since the Government first committed to publishing a green paper, in the 2017 Spring Budget. It is even longer since the Government stated in its 2017 Manifesto that, ‘Where others have failed to lead, we will act’.

There is no getting away from the fact that the last two and a half years have been a unique period politically. It is entirely understandable that our country’s future relationship with the European Union has taken up a considerable amount of the Government’s time. But that can be no excuse for such inaction in the face of the growing adult social care crisis we see unfolding.

While it is true that there have been welcome injections of funding in the past year, these only continue the approach of short-term incremental handouts, which do little to enable efforts to plan for the medium to long-term. We desperately need solutions for the longer-term and their continued delay in the absence of the Government’s green paper, matters. Another year of inaction has passed, leaving the system creaking under further, unsustainable pressure. More importantly, this continues to impact everyone with care and support needs, preventing them from living their life to the full.

Yet, necessity being the mother of invention, the absence of a green paper has given rise to considerable activity in addition to our own green paper. There is an important movement growing – describing a positive future for ‘care and support’ in its widest sense – which aims to capture the public’s imagination by talking in far more positive terms about how people can be supported to live the lives they want to lead. That, along with other work, is encouraging debate about what it is we want care and support to be. Political interest is rising, the media remains alert to the issues and understands their importance, and individuals and organisations are starting to put forward proposals for securing the long-term financial sustainability of adult social care. Some of this work is aligned and coordinated, some is not. But undoubtedly a body of ideas is growing and interest has taken root in the space left vacant by the continued absence of the Government’s own green paper.

To mark the one year anniversary of our consultation, this new publication gives a number of perspectives on two broad issues: what is happening to adult social care on the ground and what is life is like for people who experience care and support; and what is the context is to the debate about the future of adult social care and where that might that go next. I would like to thank all contributors for their candid assessment of the situation. Taken together, the articles they have written provide a stark reminder of why further delays to the Government’s green paper cannot continue and why reshaping care and support to be the best it can be is in everybody’s interests.

The Local Government Association (LGA), like many other organisations and individuals, stands ready to work with the Government to help continue the much-needed public debate about the future of this vital public service.

Councillor Ian Hudspeth
Chairman, LGA Community Wellbeing Board