Health secretary will not reveal whether long-promised reforms will be in Queen’s speech
More resources are needed to address the “significant injustices” in the social care system, the health secretary has said, but he refused to say when the government would outline reforms amid mounting criticism of the Conservatives’ failure to properly address the issue in more than a decade in office.
The government’s legislative priorities will be set out on Tuesday and, while the Tories have repeatedly insisted the care reforms are high on their agenda, Matt Hancock refused to say whether or not they would be included in the Queen’s speech.
Hancock told BBC Breakfast: “There are a number of significant injustices in the way that social care is organised right now. One is that some people – about one in 10 – have these very, very high costs.
“It is very hard to know in advance who that is. Making sure that together as a society we can help people with those costs is important.”
The years of delay have prompted criticism from the Tories’ own backbenches and from the opposition. The shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandy, said Hancock was not being clear about whether ministers were planning to take action in the near future.
“That’s basically what we have had for a really long time,” Nandy told Sky News. “It was 22 months ago that the prime minister said he would fix social care. They have refused to speak to other political parties, they haven’t brought forward any concrete changes.”
Damian Green, the Tory MP and former Cabinet Office minister who commissioned a government green paper on social care in 2017, said: “Like everyone else, I am frustrated that it has taken so long to get to this stage.
“I didn’t expect the full details in the Queen’s speech. The government produced a white paper on integrating health and social care a couple of months ago and said they would do it this year, which I took as a sign they were going to do it with the comprehensive spending review that we get in the autumn. There’s a certain sense in that.
“I am absolutely insistent that this needs to be the year for action and decision rather than kicking the can down the road any further.”
He told Sky News on Tuesday that decisive action must finally be taken this year – 11 years after the Conservatives took office.
The Tories promised to fix the issue as they won the 2010 election and David Cameron’s government began introducing limited changes – though many were later abandoned.
The party made similar promises again during election campaigns in 2015 and 2017, while the current prime minister, Boris Johnson, insisted when he took office in 2019 that a “clear plan” was already in place.
Asked on Tuesday who, therefore, was preventing its implementation, Hancock refused to answer, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he was “really proud that the prime minister is so into fixing social care”.
Hancock’s predecessor Jeremy Hunt said he hoped a cap on care costs would be announced in the Queen’s speech, telling Today the costs for some were “catastrophically high”. He added: “It’s an incredible worry for people. It’s a lottery. You don’t know, that could be you.”
During several interviews with broadcaster on Tuesday morning, Hancock insisted the government would take action at some point in the future – but declined to say when.
source: Kevin Rawlinson