Boris Johnson promised to 'fix social care once and for all' as he became Prime Minister on the steps of No. 10. On the basis of today's social care white paper, he doesn't think it's particularly badly broken. Care minister Gillian Keegan launched the document in the Commons this afternoon, telling MPs that while this set out a 10-year 'vision', 'today's white paper is an important step on our journey to giving more people the dignified care that we want for our loved ones'. Those words — 'important step' — suggest that ministers don't think this is the sum total of their proposals to fix social care, which is just as well, as there are plenty of holes in the white paper.
The biggest hole is the funding, with the paper still leaning heavily on the assumption that the Health and Social Care Levy will actually go to the sector, rather than staying with the cash-hungry NHS. It also rounds up all the funding allocated so far, much of which is old and the sum of which does not cover the needs across social care either. It has to deal with the immediate pressures on the sector which mean many people who are medically fit for discharge cannot leave hospital because there is no bed for them. It also has to cover the cap on care costs, which has attracted the most coverage, shore up the precarious sector, address low pay and ensure fees are fair and transparent. That's a lot.
In the Commons, Labour's Liz Kendall asked angrily: 'Really? Is that it?' It's a reasonable question: this will not fix social care. It is a step, but it doesn't meet the promise Johnson made on the steps of Downing Street.