Political consensus must be reached if social care reform is to deliver, says The King's Fund in response to the government's Green Paper

The King's Fund today welcomed the Green Paper on the future of social care as a fantastic opportunity but cautioned that political consensus is now vital if the momentum is to be maintained. The King's Fund's chief executive, Niall Dickson, said:

'We have waited too long for reform – the onus is now on all politicians to engage in constructive debate so we can deliver lasting change. Thousands of older people and disabled adults are being let down by a system that does not work – this is the chance to put it right.

'Neither elections nor recession must stand in the way of fundamental reform.

'The proposal in the Green Paper for a National Care Service with everyone in need receiving a national entitlement offers the hope of a fairer, simpler system. It is also right that we should explore the idea of insurance as a way of sharing the risk while recognising that the state cannot do everything.

'There are plenty of questions that still need to be explored. How will current benefits such as Attendance Allowance be reformed, do we have a clear model for adults of working age and above all how much will each of the options cost?

'But let the debate begin. It is vital that all political parties recognise the urgency of reform and do not let the looming election stall change – by 2026 one in five people will be aged 65 or over and the number of over-85s will have increased by two-thirds, compared to overall population growth of just 10 per cent.'

He added: 'Proposals for a model of partnership between the state and individuals build on The King's Fund review in 2006 led by Sir Derek Wanless, which also proposed the idea of a national entitlement.

'This is one of the great social challenges facing this country. There are no quick fixes and many questions and hard decisions remain, notably about reforming benefits and the role of local government in a more national system. There also needs to be detailed analysis and scrutiny of the proposed options for reform to ensure that a new system will deliver the fair, understandable, effective and enduring settlement we all want.'

Notes to editors: 

  1. For further information or interviews, please contact The King’s Fund press and public affairs office on 020 7307 2585 or 020 7307 2581. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185. Richard Humphries, Senior Fellow in Social Care, and Niall Dickson, Chief Executive, are both available for interview.
  2. A detailed response to the Green Paper will be published by The King’s Fund shortly and will be available on our social care project page. A background briefing on social care, which explains the current funding arrangements, is also available from our social care project page.
  3. In 2006, The King’s Fund published Securing Good Care for Older People: Taking a long-term view, which looked at the challenges facing social care over the next 20 years, the resources that will be needed to meet them, and the options for finding those resources. The report called for sharp increases in funding to meet the demand for high-quality care over the next two decades, and for the current means-tested funding system to be scrapped and replaced with a partnership model. Download Securing Good Care for Older People: Taking a long-term view.
  4. Following the review’s publication, The King’s Fund went on to establish the Caring Choices coalition, bringing together 15 organisations to engage the public in a debate about the future of care funding. Download the final report from Caring Choices. In response to that debate, in May 2008 at The King’s Fund the Prime Minister launched a public consultation on the care and support system.
  5. The King’s Fund believes any new funding settlement will have to meet four key tests: it will need to be fair, understandable, effective and enduring. Applying these tests to the Green Paper will mark the beginning of a new programme of work by The King’s Fund to ensure that the consultation is informed by a sound assessment of the options and to develop further policy thinking about how a new settlement for social care can be achieved. Our work in this area will be led by our Senior Fellow in Social Care, Richard Humphries, working with our Senior Associates Professor Julien Forder and Andrew Webster.
  6. The King’s Fund is a charity that seeks to understand how the health system in England can be improved. Using that insight, we help to shape policy, transform services and bring about behaviour change. Our work includes research, analysis, leadership development and service improvement. We also offer a wide range of resources to help everyone working in health to share knowledge, learning and ideas.