It's now or never for social care reform, says Jeremy Hunt

Ministers must accept that it is “now or never” for social care reform, Jeremy Hunt has said, as he suggested such changes were facing Treasury resistance. The former health secretary urged the Prime Minister to make good on his promise to “fix social care once and for all” and introduce a cap on costs, so no one faced bills of more than £45,000. Writing in the Telegraph with Sir Andrew Dilnot, who drew up proposals for such a plan more than a decade ago, Mr Hunt said politicians needed a “boldness of vision” to make Britain a place where people could grow old with dignity. They said 50,000 people a year were now being forced to sell their homes to pay for help, in a lottery which meant cancer sufferers could expect free care, while those with dementia must pay. With one in 10 facing costs of more than £100,000 and some facing as much as £1 million, some kind of cap on costs, based on risk pooling, was required, they said. As Britain recovers from the pandemic, it requires a “1948 moment” – similar to the NHS being set up after the Second World War despite the country being almost bankrupt. “Giving an ageing population dignity and security for their future would be the best possible way to do just that,” they wrote. “After the heroism we have seen from people working in the care sector during the pandemic, it really is now or never for social care reform.” In a separate address to council leaders, Mr Hunt, now chairman of the Commons health and social care committee, suggested that the Treasury was resisting such changes. “There's a strong sense inside the Government that this is unfinished business, it needs to be addressed,” he told the association of directors of adult social services' spring conference. “I know that's what the Prime Minister thinks and I think the Chancellor recognises there's a manifesto commitment; there is traditional Treasury concern about the impact on public finances, but my own view is that it isn't a choice as to whether we spend this money or not, it's a choice as to whether we spend this money in a planned strategic way or in a haphazard way.” Mr Hunt said he would back tax rises, if the Chancellor deemed them necessary. “I think the sums of money we're talking about are the kind of sums of money that the Treasury could find, if it chose to, without tax rises, but that might mean that there's no money for any other priorities at all,” he said. “That's why my argument to the Treasury is, if you think a tax rise is necessary, I would support that and I think it would be popular with the public,” he said, suggesting there was “widespread support” for such changes. Government insiders hit back on Friday night against Mr Hunt’s suggestion that the Treasury was resistant to reforming social care, but warned that “trade-offs” were needed to fulfil the manifesto commitment. A government source said: “The Dilnot reform is, at the moment, the frontrunner in the Prime Minister’s mind about what he wants to do. “The levers you have to pull in terms of paying for it are things that involve breaking the tax lock promise we made, because it is so expensive.” The Conservatives made a manifesto pledge at the last election to avoid increasing income tax, national insurance contributions or VAT. The source added: “You can’t just spend the money [to reform social care] and not find it in other areas. The thing the PM needs to decide is whether he's prepared to pull some levers to pay for it or not.” It's now or never for the reform of social care By Jeremy Hunt and Sir Andrew Dilnot