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Minister raises possibility of social care funding boost

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Social care minister Caroline Dinenage has hinted more funding could be made available to prop up the social care system ahead of any long-term reforms that emerge from the green paper.

Addressing the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services Spring Seminar yesterday, Ms Dinenage also said she has urged the leadership of NHS England and NHS Improvement to place a greater emphasis on the social care system.

During her speech she said she “completely” understood why funding was a big issue for delegates, but highlighted variation across the country in the effectiveness of provision, adding even with “all the money in the world, we may not necessarily choose to keep doing things the way that we are doing them.”

Ms Dinenage was later asked to elaborate on the funding issue by Nottinghamshire CC director of adult social care, health and public protection David Pearson, who is advising the government on the green paper.

She responded: “We know that even if we were to continue to do everything we do today at the same level, we still have a problem with the sustainability of the current system so we have got to look at how we make the current system sustainable before we even begin to look at how we would like to change it in the future and what other innovations we would like to bring in.”

Ms Dinenage then admitted the government was “wrestling” with funding “dilemmas” during discussions on the green paper.

“It will very much be an opportunity to set out the challenges and to make some proposals as to how we might go about addressing them,” she added.

Last month a cross-party group of 98 MPs wrote to prime minister Theresa May calling for a break in the “political deadlock” over the future of social care that has “prevented a realistic approach to increasing resources both to address the current situation and to take a long-term view of future funding.”

The Local Government Association has warned that reforms emerging from the green paper may come too late to prevent services reaching a “cliff edge” in 2020, when the social funding gap is expected to reach £2.3bn.

Ms Dinenage was later questioned on how the government would tackle local governance being treated as an “irritation” by NHS management during talks on the integration of health and social care services.

She said she had addressed the issue in recent meetings with the leadership of NHS England and NHS Improvement.

Ms Dinenage said: “My challenge to them is to not just think about the NHS but to also think about the social care sector and how we move forward, make that care very much person centred and how we embed it in everything we think about.”

She also added it is “absolutely right” spending on prevention is “front and centre” of all our thinking”.

Later, Labour’s shadow minister for social care Barbara Keeley told delegates that a Labour government would act immediately to address the funding shortfall in social care and defended her party’s pledge to establish a national care service.

When asked to respond to concerns among delegates about central control of services, Ms Keeley said the concept was inherited from a white paper published by the previous Labour government in 2010.

She admitted that “the landscape has entirely changed” since then but said of the current system, “too much is a postcode lottery”.

Ms Keeley added: “It is more important in social care than anything else that we retain that national element but what we develop now has to be sensitive to devolved budgets.

“The national aspect of it will be the standards that are set out and eligibility [criteria]. We don’t want as integration goes forward 50 or 100 different systems, as attractive as that might be locally.”

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