Stop the social care ‘lies’ Boris Johnson and tell us the truth – Tom Richmond

THERE are calls this week for Government guidance on care home visits to be underpinned in law to protect the rights of residents and their families, but should the same logic apply to prime ministerial promises?

Boris Johnson enters 10 Downing Street for the first time as Prime Minister moments after promising a "clear plan" to reform social care.

I refer to the likelihood that next week’s Queen’s Speech – Boris Johnson’s next legislative programme – will include an “ambition” to bring forward wider social care reforms, a recurring issue on these pages in recent years.

Yet the phraseology is misleading. The word ‘‘ambition’’ gives the impression that the Government will do something when, according to the dictionary definition, it is only a ‘‘desire’’ to do so.

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It is a significant difference. This misnomer is also proof positive that Mr Johnson misled the country in his very first speech as Prime Minister.

An 'ambition' to reform social care could be included in the Queen's Speech next week.

Speaking on the steps of 10 Downing Street in July 2019, he declared: “My job is to protect you or your parents or grandparents from the fear of having 
to sell your home to pay for the costs of care.

“And so I am announcing now... that 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.”

Those words are categorical. They say Johnson had entered office “with a clear plan” to address an issue which, in fairness, had been overlooked, even ignored, by past governments because of its complexity.

Given this, I specifically asked the Department of Health and Social care this week whether the so-called “clear plan” was still in existence, had it been ditched or was, to put it politely, an over-exaggeration?

Lib Dem leader Sir ed Davey is under pressure over the Post Office fraud scandal.

They declined to answer. “We are committed to improving the adult social care system and will bring forward proposals this year,” said a spokesperson.

It was the same when I put to the DHSC the many assertions by senior ministers this week, like Vaccines Ministers Nadhim Zahawi, that the Government is working on a cross-party basis.

How many meetings had taken place and what was the status of these discussions given that Labour sources tell me that they are unaware of any talks taking place?

Again the Government avoided the question, with the DHSC spokesperson instead citing an extra “£1.8bn for adult social care including infection prevention and control measures”.

This is deeply worrying on three counts. First, the country’s indulgence of a premier whose economy with the truth has been searingly exposed by political commentator Peter Oborne’s new book The Assault On Truth.

Second, the propensity of paid civil servants to ignore straightforward questions in the public interest, like the status of the “clear plan” or cross-party talks.

Finally, the failure of all leaders, past and present, Tory and Labour, to provide the statesmanship and statecraft necessary.

As Sir Andrew Dilnot, who produced a supposedly landmark prospectus on social care exactly 10 years ago, lamented this week: “All political parties and all of us have failed to get this done and it is a stain on our nation.”

A start, I venture, is the Prime Minister being totally truthful over his intentions on social care and funding reform?

The fact that so few people appear perturbed about whether Johnson is telling the truth on an issue as profound as the care of the vulnerable is one of the most depressing indictments yet on the state of politics at present.

LIB Dem leader Sir Ed Davey cannot have it both ways. He wants a public inquiry over the handling of the Covid pandemic, but his party is virtually silent over the plight of hundreds of postmasters wrongly prosecuted for fraud in one of the country’s worst ever miscarriages of justice.

When Small Business Minister Paul Scully was pressed over the Government’s response by Tory and Labour MPs, the only Lib Dem contribution came from Christine Jardine who appealed for every case to be “treated individually and not simply as one overarching scandal”.

Yet, while it falls to this Government to resolve compensation for those postmasters given criminal records because of the botched introduction of an IT system in 1999, a judge-led public inquiry is needed to look at the shortcomings of past Post Office executives and Ministers.

And this, for the record, needs to explore any culpability on the part of Sir Vince Cable, the prominent Lib Dem and future party leader, who was Business Secretary from 2010-15 when the miscarriage was coming to light.

This period also saw the aforementioned Davey and Jo Swinson, the third of this triumvirate to lead the Lib Dems, have specific responsibility for post offices.

In 2010, Davey replied to subpostmasters that he had full confidence in the Horizon IT system that led to this scandal. “Post Office Limited continues to express full confidence in the integrity and robustness of the Horizon system,” he wrote.

Davey also said the supposed safeguards were “consistent with that of banking systems and provides a fully secure audit file which can show all system activity in a particular branch”. He could not have been more mistaken.

Meanwhile the aforementioned Swinson – Davey’s predecessor as party leader – tried to sidestep the issue in the Commons, saying “that many of the cases are incredibly complex, understandably so, because they are dealing with systems and many transactions”.

To which Labour MP Kevan Jones, a leading campaigner, replied: “You’re the Minister, do something!” It’s what the Lib Dems usually demand – but not now.

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