Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has written to MPs to initiate cross-party talks on social care in England.
The move comes eight months after Boris Johnson promised on the steps of Downing Street to “fix the social care crisis once and for all”.
In a letter shared on Twitter, Hancock called on his colleagues to write to him with their “proposed solutions and concerns” about reforming the way people pay for their care.
He explained that he and the Minister of Care, Helen Whately, intend to move to a second phase of structured talks on reform options in May.
This means that the Conservative Party will have passed the 100-day deadline it set for holding cross-party talks after the General Election in December.
Hancock said the Government is committed to seeking views from across the political spectrum after years of successive governments “trying and failing” to find a long-term solution to funding social care.
He wrote: “We need to address the injustices within the system and find a balance between people continuing to contribute to their care without having to face catastrophic costs. We do not need another commission – we need action now, finally to seek a solution that can support future generations.
“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 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 and 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 once and for all.”
The Labour Party said it has offered to engage in meaningful cross party talks, but criticised the government for failing to set out concrete proposals for reform.
Labour’s shadow minister for Social Care and Mental Health 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.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said the proposals 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,” she said.
Colin Angel, Policy Director at United Kingdom Homecare Association agreed, adding: “Cross-party talks are, of course, essential for getting a consensus about the long-term funding of adult social care.
“However it’s disappointing that with three years of preparation for an unpublished green paper, Government has not yet presented an outline plan which could be acceptable across a range of political opinions. Possibly the greatest dangers for adult social care are the continued uncertainty and the repeated Government tactic of employing short-term funding measures through the annual budget.”