Matt Hancock asks MPs and peers for views on adult social care reform | Society

Matt Hancock has written to MPs and peers, urging them to help secure a cross-party consensus on reform of the adult social care system, as the government commits to finding an answer to the ongoing problem.

In his letter, the health secretary says he is determined to find a sustainable solution to the problem of people being hit by large costs that are hard to plan for when their loved ones require social care.

“We know this will not be easy,” Hancock said in his letter. “The number of reports that have been published in recent years with different suggested approaches shows how difficult it is to reach agreement on the best way to reform the social care system.”

The government has committed to the principle that nobody should be forced to sell their home to pay for care, saying that everybody accessing care must have safety and security.

The letter sets out a two-step timeline for social care reform talks. The first phase began on Friday, calling for the views of MPs. The next steps will be structured talks in May on reform options. The letter says Hancock welcomed “all views, proposed solutions, and concerns about reforming the way people pay for adult social care”.

He added: “Any solution also needs to consider the financial impact on taxpayers as a whole, and the competing demands on taxpayers’ money from other public services.”

But Barbara Keeley, the shadow minister for mental health and social care, said: “The prime minister promised voters that he had a plan to fix the social care crisis but now all we see is an open-ended invitation for comments.

“As we have repeatedly said, cross-party talks can only be effective when the government comes forward with their proposals for reform. It’s clear that it doesn’t have a plan to fix the crisis in social care.

“Labour has offered to engage in meaningful cross-party talks and we would be happy to do so, but the process outlined by Matt Hancock is another consultation that provides no help to a system in crisis.”

Caroline Abrahams, the charity director at Age UK, agreed: “Unfortunately, this announcement, issued on a Friday afternoon, will not fill anyone who cares about the future of social care with much confidence.

“It is always good for ministers to seek alternative views, but it is very disappointing that they appear not to be offering any of their own at this stage. A cross-party process would surely have a greater chance of success if ministers were setting out some kind of basis for discussion, rather than leaving it to everyone to pitch in from their own starting point.”

James Heywood, a senior researcher at the Centre for Policy Studies, said: “We welcome the government starting the ball rolling on seeking cross-party consensus on social care reform. This issue has been ducked by successive governments, and the 2017 election campaign showed that meaningful reform is more likely to be achieved with cross-party support.”

Catherine Foot, the director of evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “These steps towards a solution to the social care crisis are welcome but must lead to real action on what is one of the most pressing issues we face today.”

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