Citizens Assemblies shaping policy on social care in the UK parliament
We are watching and supporting the rising Citizens' Assembly movement - where citizens selected randomly, by sortition (just like jury duty), are asked to deliberate methodically on major issues, and present their results to the politicians.
It had a most extraordinary impact on the recent national referendum in Ireland on changing (and liberalising) the abortion laws. The victory for liberalisers has been consistently linked to the authority and clarity of the recommendations that came from an Irish Citizens' Assembly, convened two years before (see these pieces from The Irish Times and the Electoral Reform Society).
Two parliamentary committees have made history by being the first in the UK to ask a citizens’ assembly – a representative body of English citizens – to help them tackle one of the key social challenges facing UK society. Not only that, they have thrown their weight behind the Assembly’s recommendations.
In brief, the Health and Social Care, and Housing Communities and Local Government Committees of the House of Commons commissioned Involve earlier this year to run a Citizens’ Assembly on how adult social care in England should be funded in order to inform their Inquiry on the same topic.
The Committees’ report closely reflects that of the Citizens’ Assembly on Social Care, including calls for:
- A tax on over 40s to help to pay for social care
- Social care to be free at the point of use for both working age and older adults, like the NHS;
- Higher quality care in a system which treats people with dignity and respect, better supports carers, and is easy to navigate;
- Greater financial protection for people who need care, such as a lower ‘cap’ on what they have to contribute and a higher ‘floor’ in the assets people are able to keep;
- Politicians to work cross-party to agree urgent reforms.
- The adult social care funding system has been in critical need of reform for many years, but our political system has been unable to deal with it. In contrast, the Citizens’ Assembly on Social Care developed clear and consistent recommendations for a bold new funding arrangement.
There is, of course, a long road between even a Parliamentary Committee making recommendations, and the eventual creation of national policy. But what we applaud is the spectacle - and practice - of non-expert citizens coming up with strong, ambitious recommendations. This is the field that A/UK wants to enrich and develop.