Health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt has urged local government to lead the debate about the future of social care services.

While Mr Hunt said the country needs answers to “profound, longstanding questions about funding” of social care, he warned “the challenges facing us today have been long in the making and resolving them will also take time”.

Hunt confed 2017

Jeremy Hunt: ‘The challenges facing us today have been long in the making’

Writing for the Local Government Association’s magazine, Mr Hunt said: “We need to build a new consensus across society, built on an informed debate around what we are willing to contribute versus what we expect to receive. It means a system that retains an element of risk-pooling, while preserving the historic principle of a shared partnership between the state and the individual. The green paper will also bring forward ideas on how to do this, and what the cost implications will be.

“With five green or white papers, numerous policy papers, and four independent reviews into social care over the last 20 years, we are experiencing the effects of repeated, failed reform programmes. The reality is that the challenges facing us today have been long in the making and resolving them will also take time.

“But that must not be an excuse to put off necessary reforms, nor must it delay the debate we need to have with the public about where the funding for social care should come from in the future. We will need local government to be an important ally in making the case, and leading that conversation this summer.”

Mr Hunt said he is “seeing new levels of collaboration” between local government and the NHS. He also welcomed the “positive steps” to reduce delayed transfers of care from hospital by 8 per cent since 2017.

“This reflects the huge contributions that many authorities have made to local system planning ahead of winter and strengthens the symbiotic relationship between the NHS and social care,” said Mr Hunt. However, he added: “Yet for all the successes, nobody working in the care system would deny that the picture remains challenging.”

As a result the social care green paper “could not be more important”, he said. “Seventy years on from the passage of legislation that essentially created our modern care system, we need fundamental reform to reinvent it for a modern society. The voice of local government, with its unique expertise and insights into the needs of 21st century communities, must be at the heart of the debate.”