The Government has yet to devise a solution to the social care crisis despite Boris Johnson saying he had a “clear plan” when he became Prime Minister, the Chancellor has suggested.
Rishi Sunak said ministers were “committed” to finding a “cross-party” solution but that the focus is currently on the coronavirus pandemic.
He has faced criticism from care groups, MPs and charities over the absence of measures to address growing social care pressures in this year’s Budget.
Mr Sunak was asked during an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme why there was no mention of social care in his financial statement.
He said: “We are committed to finding, ideally, a cross-party solution to sustainable social care funding – it is important given the long-term duration of social care policy that, as much as possible, we would like to build consensus around a solution.
“Obviously right now our focus is the pandemic.
“I know the Health Secretary has started that work on trying to see what the solutions might be and at the appropriate time, if we can find consensus on a solution, we will bring that forward and have that conversation, but that is something that of course we remain committed to.”
Successive governments have failed to address the situation which can both leave families facing ruinously expensive care costs while the system as a whole struggles for funding.
Mr Johnson used his first speech as Prime Minister in July 2019 to say “we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve”.
But little progress has been made and the coronavirus pandemic has set back efforts to produce a new system.
However, the Government said last month that it is committed to reform and will bring forward proposals later this year.
Pressed on why there was still no information about such a plan when the Prime Minister said it had already been prepared, Mr Sunak said: “I think given, as you said, it has been a problem that has not found a solution over many governments and parliaments, I think it is going to take some time and thought to get it right because we want to make sure it is a lasting settlement.
“And right now, particularly on the health side, the focus is on tackling the pandemic, and that’s right that that is our focus.”
But Labour’s shadow minister for social care, Liz Kendall, said the Government had not “discussed or even raised” with the Opposition its plans to build a cross-party consensus.
She said: “There was nothing in the Budget on social care, despite everything that has happened during this pandemic and the Prime Minister’s promise on the steps of Downing St to fix the crisis in social care more than 18 months ago.
“Today the Chancellor claimed this gaping hole is because the Government is trying to build cross-party consensus about the way forward. Yet this has not been discussed or even raised with Labour’s front bench team, despite our repeatedly asking the care minister about this issue.
“Our society and economy need a care system that is fit for the future. Ministers must bring forward plans for reform as a matter of the utmost urgency and deliver on their promises to the British people.”