Many of you will have seen the announcement from the First Secretary of State, Damian Green outlining the next steps on reform of adult social care.
As people are living longer and the population ages, the Government recognises the need to reach a long-term, sustainable solution to providing the care older people need.
As part of this work, the Government has begun a process of engagement in advance of a Green Paper to ensure it reflects a wide range of views and requirements.
Government will work with independent experts, stakeholders, including social workers, occupational therapists and most importantly, users and carers to shape the long-term reforms that will be proposed in the Green Paper, to be published by summer 2018.
To achieve reform where previous attempts have failed, we must look more beyond social care services, and our vision for care must also incorporate the wider networks of support and services which help older people to live independently.
This should include the crucial role of housing and the interaction with other public services, but more broadly focus on the essential role of people who provide unpaid care and how our society supports carers in a sustainable health and social care system.
It must also consider how care is provided at present and challenge the system to embrace new technology, innovation and workforce models which can deliver better quality and value.
The place of social work and the vital practice approach that social workers contribute, together with other existing care professionals and potential new roles, should be at the heart of that vision.
It's a vision I set out in part in my foreword to the capability statement for social workers who work with older people which we collaborated on with the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) with funding from the Department of Health.
As part of that foreword I said: 'There is a need for additional skills, knowledge, values and approaches which recognise the increasingly complex needs of the older population and which enable social workers to lead and challenge across an integrated health, care and housing system.'
Many have rightly said that social care is not about older people alone, and work should recognise those younger adults with care needs who can face a range of challenges.
Whilst the Green Paper will primarily look at support and care for older people, it will of course impact on the system as whole, for all ages.
But moreover, Government is also establishing a parallel programme of work to ensure that the perspectives and needs of working-age adults who use social care services are considered in their own right, and that the opportunities for reform for this group are not lost amid discussion of how we meet the needs of our ageing population.
Government has invited a list of independent experts to contribute their views as part of this process, who represent significant expertise and diverse perspectives.
I am particularly pleased to see social work and local government experience represented, and it is fantastic that Imelda Redmond, national director of Healthwatch England, has committed to bringing the perspectives of people who interact with services into the discussion.
In addition to hearing from these experts, the Government is also engaging more broadly with people who use care and support, carers, the public, and representatives from across the sector to underpin the development of the Green Paper.
When published, it will of course be subject to a full public consultation, providing further opportunity for anyone who wants to give their views. I hope many of you will make the most of the opportunity to participate in this process and ensure that the social workers can influence and contribute to shaping the social care system that promotes people’s rights and ensures they can have the best possible lives and be fully included as valued citizens in our society.
The Green Paper presents a unique opportunity to build consensus around reforms which can last. There is no escaping that building a sustainable care and support system will require choices about what that system should provide and how it is paid for.
But getting this right promises a better system that everyone can have confidence in, where people understand their responsibilities, can prepare for the future, and know that the care they receive will be to a high standard and help them maintain their independence and wellbeing.
I look forward to a valuable and thought-provoking public debate.