Health Secretary Matt Hancock has written to MPs and peers across Westminster to initiate talks on social care.
Mr Hancock said he wanted to build a cross-party consensus as he asked colleagues for their views on how to “progress this crucial agenda”.
In the election, the Conservatives promised to “urgently seek a cross-party consensus” in order to “bring forward the necessary proposal and legislation for long-term reform”.
But Labour has accused the Government of only offering an “open-ended invitation for comments”.
Today I’ve written to colleagues in all parties to initiate talks on social care. We will seek a cross-party consensus – and deliver much needed reform pic.twitter.com/COmON799xs
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) March 6, 2020
In a letter to MPs and peers, Mr Hancock said: “As we set out in our manifesto, we will seek to build cross-party consensus so that the reforms we progress will last long into the future, nobody is forced to sell their home to pay for care, and everybody accessing care has safety and security.
“Of course, any solution needs to consider the financial impact on taxpayers as a whole, the competing demands on taxpayers’ money from other public services, and how to fund reform on a sustainable basis.
“We know that this will not be easy. The number of reports that have been published in recent years with different suggested approaches shows how difficult it is to reach agreement on the best way to reform the social care system.
“Nevertheless, we know that there are colleagues from all sides of both Houses who are keen to work together to address the issues in the current system and find a solution for once and for all.
“We want to hear your views, your proposed solutions and your concerns about reforming the way that people pay for their care as part of the cross-party talks, I am now initiating.
“In the first phase of the process, both I and the Minister for Social Care would be delighted to hear from all colleagues and peers with views on how to progress this crucial agenda. We then intend to move to a second phase of structured talks on reform options in May.”
Shadow social care minister Barbara Keeley said: “The Prime Minister promised voters that he had a plan to fix the social care crisis but now all we see is an open-ended invitation for comments.
“As we have repeatedly said, cross-party talks can only be effective when the Government comes forward with its proposals for reform. It is clear that it does not have a plan to fix the crisis in social care.
“Labour has offered to engage in meaningful cross-party talks and we would be happy to do so, but the process outlined by Matt Hancock is another consultation that provides no help to a system in crisis.”
Age UK, a charity for older people, said it was “very disappointing” that the Government did not appear to be offering “any of their own” views on social care.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Unfortunately, this announcement, issued on a Friday afternoon, will not fill anyone who cares about the future of social care with much confidence. It is always good for ministers to seek alternative views, but it is very disappointing that they appear not to be offering any of their own at this stage.
“A cross-party process would surely have a greater chance of success if ministers were setting out some kind of basis for discussion, rather than leaving it to everyone to pitch in from their own starting point.
“The Prime Minister has pledged to fix social care and, blessed as he is with a very substantial majority, he has a better opportunity to fulfil that promise than any of his recent predecessors. For the sake of the millions of older and disabled people, and their families and carers, who depend on there being a reliable and effective care service in place, he must follow through.
“Of course, we are all aware of the many other issues the Government has to deal with, including now coronavirus, but the refinancing and reform of social care is a pressing priority too and continuing delay simply makes life worse for users, and means there’s an ever steeper hill to climb to restore our care system to a semblance of decency.”