Speaking exclusively to LGC, he demanded across-the-board engagement with a six-month consultation launched on Monday that will inform a green paper on social care funding early next year.
“It shouldn’t just be seen as a matter for the director of adult services, it should be a matter for the chief executive, too,” he said. “I also want elected members to take a full role in this debate, not just officers.”
“We should not forget that local government is the local organisation for commissioning these services and they know the needs of their residents at the local level better than anyone,” Mr Lewis said.
“I want to see them getting the different communities together, and putting aside party-political mudslinging.”
The green paper is the first step toward radically changing the way social care is provided in England. It also aims to find ways to deal with the pressures of an ageing society and an existing system that is on course for a£6bn funding gap over the next two decades.
At the launch event, prime minister Gordon Brown said the new care system must take account of the greater need for personalised care and not penalise people for working hard and saving for their retirement.
John Dixon, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said he saw councils adopting a “trading standards”-style approach to advising residents, including those who pay for their own care.
“It’s about providing quality advice and working with local organisations that provide care,” he said.
David Rogers (Lib Dem), chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said councils’ current tightening of eligibility criteria for social care services was the result of central government’s failure to provide funding that kept pace with demographic change. “Local authorities are determined to give older people a fair deal, but the social care system is creaking at the seams,” he said.