This paper seeks to provide an overview of recent reforms to the social care system in England.
The reforms are described and contextualised within a broader account of the history of social care that includes an analysis of the factors that have encouraged reform.
The current reforms of social care will bring about some benefits but their long‐term impact is still very uncertain. The changing political and economic environment and the inherent difficulties that reform suggests indicate that these changes will be subject to significant differences in interpretation for some time.
This analysis is framed by a set of ethical assumptions about the rights of disabled people and the injustice of arrangements that limit those rights.
The paper encourages practitioners to treat new ideas such as individual budgets and self‐directed support as positive opportunities for improving practice, while being mindful of tensions and unresolved issues that may harm good practice.
This research should help policy‐makers and the general public to avoid misunderstanding the role of these innovations and to better understand when and how these reforms can be used positively.
This paper offers a new and historical perspective on the social care reforms from someone who is closely associated with inventing and implementing those ideas.
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