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How will Burt fare as care services minister?

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It is a while since we had a majority Conservative government overseeing adult social care.

But much of the now familiar landscape was formed between the Children Act 1989 and the Direct Payments Act in 1996. This includes the last major reform of community care, the first legislation recognising carers and the Disability Discrimination Act.

New care services minister Alistair Burt is no stranger to social care. He served as a councillor in Haringey between 1982 and 1984 and as minister in the then Department of Social Security in the run up to the implementation of the transfer of funding for care to local authorities. He was part of the shadow team for communities and local government from 2005 to 2008. His constituency interests include being president of Carers in Bedfordshire.

What awaits him in his first few months? As with his Liberal Democrat predecessors, he can expect to do most of the heavy lifting for social care in the Department of Health. The returning health secretary will be preoccupied with delivering the pre-election promises for the NHS including seven-day working, extra funding and more staff.

It will be important for him to press the argument that social care is integral to the success of the NHS. He needs to take a hard look at the claims for the better care fund and satisfy himself that it can carry the expectations loaded on to it. An early reinforcement of the role of health and wellbeing boards in shaping integration would be welcome.

He will want to maintain the cross-party consensus that social care urgently needs the reforms initiated by the Care Act. It needs to deliver fundamental changes to the operating system of care, not just the manifesto promises about capping the costs of care for the better off. It would be prudent for him to re-examine representations about the costs of implementation, not least how many self-funders will engage with councils for the first time and potentially tip into needing NHS continuing care.

Norman Lamb did a great deal to promote the parity of priority for physical and mental health. This, together with pressing the case for learning disabilities after Winterbourne View, is still work in progress and needs reinforcement.

There should be cause for optimism that the party that formalised direct payments will embrace personal budgets for health and social care. It fits well with devolving power from organisations to communities and to people but I hope he will want to ensure it is done widely and authentically.

Finally, I have confidence that Alistair Burt will not need any prompting to recognise the importance of health and social care promoting the interests of carers.

Andrew Cozens is independent social care and health specialist




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