On the 20th March, Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced his seven key principles for reforming social care. His principles bore a welcome similarity to the seven principles launched by Independent Age in January but, as ever, the devil is in the detail (and the implementation).

As set out in his speech, Jeremy Hunt’s first key principle relates to quality of care. He rightly drew attention to the number of social care providers who are rated good or outstanding by the Care Quality Commission, but also acknowledged, as Independent Age has recently shown, that far too many older people are receiving poor quality care.

He went on to say “my first of the seven principles will be that we need a relentless and unswerving focus on providing the highest standards of care – whatever a person’s age or condition. This means a commitment to tackle poor care with minimum standards enforced throughout the system so that those using social care services are always kept safe and treated with the highest standards of dignity and compassion”.

And this is where the detail becomes important. First, setting minimum standards cannot by definition create the highest standards of care. So, what more will the Minister do to ensure that everyone experiences the highest quality care? So far, there is no answer to this question.

Independent Age welcomes, of course, the commitment to ensuring that all older people receiving care are kept safe and are treated with dignity and compassion, but is that the limit of the Minister’s ambition concerning quality?

In 2016, Independent Age talked to older people in care homes about what quality meant to them, and from these conversations, we developed eight care home quality indicators. The seventh indicator describes that “care homes should be set up to meet residents’ cultural, religious and lifestyle needs as well as their care needs”. Our hope is that the government’s forthcoming social care green paper acknowledges this important aspect of quality, as defined by older people themselves, and ensures that the social care system in the future will be one where older people can thrive, not just survive.

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