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Delay in Green Paper on adult social care

A House of Commons Library briefing paper has been published reporting on the progress of the long-anticipated government Green Paper on the future of social care.

In the March 2017 Budget, the Conservative government said that it would publish a Green Paper in order to facilitate a public consultation on developing a sustainable means of funding social care. This followed a decision to postpone the introduction of a cap on lifetime social care charges that had originally been proposed by the Dilnot Commission in July 2011.

During the subsequent 2017 general election campaign, the Conservative Party made a number of pledges regarding how individuals pay for social care, including a manifesto commitment to introduce the Green Paper.

The briefing paper confirms that, since the 2017 election, the publication date of the Green Paper has been changed a number of times:

  • the election promise was that it would be published in ‘summer 2017’
  • this was changed shortly after the election by the re-elected Conservative government to ‘the end of the year’ (i.e. 2017)
  • in November 2017 a revised publication date was announced of “by summer recess” (i.e. July 2018)
  • a new publication date of the ‘autumn’ 2018 was announced in June 2018
  • in December 2018 the government announced a fourth delay saying it would be published ‘at the first opportunity in 2019’.

The briefing paper explores what ‘first opportunity’ may mean, given that the government has made no other statements relating to a final publication date. One possibility that is mentioned is that the Green Paper was delayed so that it could be issued ‘around the same time as the NHS plan’.

The plan was also deferred from last year and was finally published on the 7 January. This may suggest that the Green Paper could soon follow. However, the House of Commons briefing also states that it is ‘perhaps not inconceivable’ that publication of the social care Green Paper might not eventually occur until ‘several weeks, or months’ into 2019.

The House of Commons briefing paper also includes information on the expected content of the Green Paper and its proposed implementation.

Regarding content, the briefing paper confirms that the proposals in Green Paper will be designed to ‘ensure that the care and support system is sustainable in the long term’. Other topics that the Government has said may be included are integration with health and other services, carers’ needs, workforce issues, and technological developments, among others. The Government may also consider domestic and international comparisons.

Regarding implementation, the briefing paper acknowledges that no indication has been given by the Government on how swiftly progress will be made once the Green Paper is finally published. However, the briefing points out that, once the Green Paper has been published, a full public consultation will be required to provide a further opportunity for interested parties to give their views. After the consultation, a Government response will be required, perhaps in the form of a White Paper, setting out how matters will be taken forward. Finally, the briefing paper also suggests that new primary legislation may be needed.

Briefing Paper 8002 Social care: forthcoming Green Paper (England), can be downloaded from https://bit.ly/2JRjF0O.