The government has been warned it is "vital" there are no further delays to the "long overdue" social care reform in England ahead of the launch of its listening exercise.
The 'Caring for Our Future' engagement exercise kicks off on Monday (19 September) and will last three months.
Experts from Carers UK, the Alzheimer's Society, the Association of Directors of Adults Social Services (ADASS), NAAPS, ABI as well as GPs and councillors have been enlisted by the Department of Health to help lead discussions.
During the exercise, the government wants to hear to people who use care and support services – carers, local councils, care providers and the voluntary sector to find out how best to improve the care and support system.
"I know the current care system has to change," said Paul Burstow, Care Services Minister.
"People tell me that that it is unfair, confusing and unpopular, which is why we need to act and ensure the system is sustainable for the long term.
"I want to see high-quality care that gives people choice in how their needs and ambitions are met, and helps them to live independent, active and healthy lives."
According to the Care Quality Commission's third annual report, social care has seen a 'continued rise' in demand for services. In the last year, the number of new contracts to councils responsible for providing social care rose by 4% to 2.12 million.
Of these, over half resulted in a further assessment or commissioning of ongoing service.
"The King's Fund welcomes the announcement of the public engagement exercise," said Richard Humphries, senior fellow at the King's Fund.
"The need for fundamental reform in social care has never been greater. This will involve difficult choices about priorities, and it right that views are sought from everyone who uses and works in the care and support sector.
"Recent years have seen two independent commissions and several consultation exercises on the future of social care. This latest exercise should add fresh perspectives and enable the government to commit to legislation as soon as practically possible.
"As pressures on health and social care mount, it is vital that there is no further delay to reform that is widely regarded as long overdue."
The listening exercise will inform the government's White Paper and progress report on the funding of social care reform, planned for spring 2012.