A draft bill on social care reform will be published shortly after the government’s white paper on the issue, which is still officially scheduled for publication later this month.
HSJ’s sister title Local Government Chronicle understands the draft bill, announced in the Queen’s speech last week, will include measures to tighten the regulation of social care providers. It will legislate for all of the recommendations in the May 2011 Law Commission report on social care.
The Law Commission report proposes setting out the minimum level of services councils should provide. It also proposes giving councils a duty to investigate adult protection cases and encouraging consistent social care provision for individuals who move to different local authority areas.
Sources close to health secretary Andrew Lansley said the draft bill would be published “not too long after” the white paper.
According to the department’s corporate plan, updated this month, the white paper is due to be published in May. It is expected to be published alongside a ‘progress report’ on talks about the funding of social care.
The source said that, along with all of the Law Commission’s recommendations, the draft bill would include new measures on ‘market oversight’.
The draft bill is expected to be a technical document that will set out the legal framework for reform and provide a template on which reforms proposed in the white paper will ultimately be based.
The white paper will set out the government’s vision for reform based around integration and personalisation of services. It is not expected to offer an outright acceptance or rejection of the Dilnot Commission’s proposals, but it could refer to the ‘important question’ of how to balance the costs of those proposals with the costs of care.
A source close to the discussions said: “Things are happening in an unconventional order, with a draft bill coming out so soon after the white paper, but it will be the white paper that is really worth looking out for because that is where any new thinking will be. The draft bill will be a work in progress.”
Meanwhile, Local Government Chronicle understands Department of Health officials have discussed plans to continue transferring funds from the NHS to social care in the next spending round, starting in 2015. The proposals have not yet been put to ministers.
In the current spending review the government will transfer about £1bn per year from the NHS to help fund adult social care.
Cross-party talks on the funding of social care are not expected to conclude before the publication of the white paper, progress report and draft bill.
The spokesman said any cross-party agreement on funding could be “slotted in” to the draft bill later, and could be included in the next spending review.
However, sources close to the talks said there had not yet been a ‘eureka moment’ and it was not clear how long the talks would take.