The Queen’s Speech and Adult Social Care

The Queen at the State Opening 2009

I was expecting little from the Queen’s Speech in relation to adult social care and I was exactly right in my assumption.

The one line

‘A draft bill will be published to modernise adult care and support in England’ made my heart sink from the outset.

‘Modernise’ is one of those words that could mean anything. Sure enough the details followed.

The Department of Health website expands on that sentence.

The main elements of the draft Bill are:

  • modernising the legal framework for care and support, to support the vision of the forthcoming White Paper on care and support
  • establishing Health Education England as a non-departmental public body
  • establishing the Health Research Authority as a non-departmental public body
  • creating a London Health Improvement Board
  • carrying out engagement and pre-legislative scrutiny on the draft Bill, as many in the social care sector have called for, to enable government to listen to people with experience and expertise, to make the most of this unique opportunity to reform the law

What is missing is more important that what is contained in that short statement from the Department of Health.

We knew already that the Law Commission report was likely to be incorporated into legislation. I feel confident that there will be a streamlining of legislation and systems around them which will be positive.

As well as improving (or ‘modernising’ as they like to call it) the hotchpotch of legislation into one Act, the recommendations, lest we forget, include strengthening safeguarding processes for adults and imposing duties on local authorities to provide services for carers.

Which brings me on to the part that is missing.


There was no mention of tackling the immense funding gap in these proposals. There is talk about rolling out ‘choice and control’ but without knowing that this will be funded (which it won’t – we were always told this would be zero cost process of change) it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

The Department of Health talks about ‘building on progress’ of personal budgets and my hope that will mean plugging that gaps that were introduced in the first place. I have my doubts as plugging those gaps will lead to significant funding increases as it will mean investment in statutory advocacy to extend the same levels of choice to wider groups of users.

My concern is that what will actually happen is that we will be given more meaningless targets to reach that will be very beneficial to the few  but will leave a large swathe of people behind as the pot of money available for care simply runs out.

One of the ‘benefits’ the Department of Health elucidates is

simplifying the system and processes, to provide the freedom and flexibility needed by local authorities and social workers to allow them to innovate and achieve better results for people

Now, if anyone can translate this ‘policy speak’ into real language for me, I’d appreciate it.

I read it personally as a push towards ‘social enterprise’ type operations which push social workers away from local authorities but I could be totally wrong on that.

‘Innovate’ like ‘modernise’ is an easy word to throw around, especially by those who have no conception of the actual meaning of the word. Innovation needs a lot more than the proposals on the table. It needs much more inventive and open thinking from areas outside the Department of Health. I’d like to see more emphasis on co-production. We want users to have the flexibility to innovate rather than necessarily the social workers. And I say that as a social worker.

I will wait with interest to see the coming White Paper on Social Care. I set my expectations very low. But I do expect a lot of words like ‘choice’, ‘modern’, ‘innovative’ with no mention of funding at all.

photo via parliament_uk flickr