The Co-operative Party’s Policy Officer James Scott reacts to news that Social Care Ministerial Oversight has been reduced in the new Government.

Last week responsibility for social care was handed from a senior minister to the more junior minister, David Mowat MP.  There is now no single focus on social care, which will sit under the lowest level of ministerial responsibility within the Department for Health.

This is worrying for those who receive, provide and rely on care.  While this internal reform might seem like an irrelevant game of musical chairs, it can be seen to represent a downgrading of the importance the government places on this aspect of care.  Without proper Ministerial guidance and dedication much-needed reform and laser focus on improvement is less likely.

For example, it is clear that local authorities and NHS bodies need new models of commissioning that centre the needs of those receiving care and their families.  At the very least providers should be forced to embed the interests of care recipients within their governance structures, whilst care workers should be empowered to own and manage care services.

It stands to reason that the downgrading of Ministerial oversight on social care will do little to improve the unmet needs of the sector for example. According to the King’s Fund, the sector faces a funding shortfall of between £2.8bn and £3.5bn by 2020.  It should not be the case that a more junior minister, with a wide range of responsibilities, will lead to less government action and generate less scrutiny. This situation is compounded by the recent reduction in funding for the sector’s regulator Care Quality Commission.

A funding shortfall, less well-resourced regulator and reduced Ministerial oversight will do little to demonstrate that this government will not abandon society’s most vulnerable, their families and the workers who provide their care.

The Co-operative Party believes that social care is a vital cornerstone of our welfare state and deserves better.  We will work with providers, recipients, trade unions and government to ensure that this retrograde step does not mean that a new more co-operative form of social care cannot emerge from the privatised market.