The care minister has promised a “significant breakthrough” in the government’s plan to introduce a cap on social care costs by 2015.
Norman Lamb outlined the timescale for introducing the key Dilnot commission proposal at a private meeting with councillors at the National Children’s and Adults’ Services Conference in Eastbourne last week, HSJ’s sister title Local Government Chronicle reports.
It is the first time a minister has indicated publically a deadline for the introduction of the social care cap, which was recommended by economist Andrew Dilnot in his influential report.
“My personal view is that we just have to get on and do Dilnot. We could achieve quite a significant breakthrough in the next two years”, he said.
Mr Lamb also said he thought the government should “legislate for the principle of doing it” soon, before details, such as the level of the cap, had been decided.
Mr Lamb’s comments appear to have already been seized on by local authorities. Conservative-controlled Kent County Council has already launched a campaign to get Mr Dilnot’s recommendations implemented by 2015.
“The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, needs to put the wheels in motion on this report,” Paul Carter, the leader of Kent CC said on a blog last week. “With every day, week and month that goes by, the pressure is building on our social care system, which is no longer sustainable.”
Mr Lamb told an open conference session the previous day that the details of the Dilnot cap, including its level, could differ from the original proposal. “We’ve got to get to a version of Dilnot and we need to make a decision soon to proceed.” he added.
The government was also investigating plans to tap pension funds to pay for social care, another idea raised by Mr Dilnot, the economist behind the proposals.
Speaking at the same conference, health secretary called for a “culture of co-operation” across the health and social care regimes, saying that too many people are “falling between the cracks”.
Mr Hunt said that the divide between the NHS and local authorities sometimes “beggars belief”.
In his second speech as health secretary, Mr Hunt also criticised a lack of communication between different parts of the health system.
As a result, patients with the “loudest voices and the sharpest elbows” often got the best treatment, he said.
“We need a culture of co-operation across health and social care, with the individual needs of the people that we are responsible for at its heart,” Mr Hunt added.
“The old structures have not worked well enough. With GP practices not talking to hospitals, hospitals not talking to each other, and the divide between the NHS and local authorities sometimes beggaring belief.
“This lack of openness and communication, of trust, means that too many people simply fall between the cracks.”