Parties must find social care consensus soon after election, say MPs

12 March 2010

The Health Committee today calls for fundamental reform of the social care system in England and says political point-scoring must stop.

Instead of indulging in pre-election politicking, all the parties should come together to map out sustainable reform. Consensus on the details of reforms must be achieved early in the new Parliament and a failure to do so will betray current and future generations.

The Chairman of the Committee, Kevin Barron MP, said:

"We don’t want this issue to be turned into an election football for it to be kicked back into the long grass again in a few weeks."

The report says the current social care system is chronically underfunded, severely rationed, locally variable, too often of poor quality and discriminates against older people.

The Committee is highly critical of the Government’s Free Personal Care at Home Bill which it says smacks of policy-making on the hoof and risks creating perverse incentives and being substantially underfunded.

Free care funded from taxation has many supporters but has been ruled out as an option by the Government. The Committee urges debate on this issue.

It also acknowledges the widespread concern about the proposed reform of disability benefits for older people, noting the lack of clear information from the Government on who the winners and losers will be.

To mitigate significantly the worst aspects of the existing funding system, as an interim measure, the Committee recommends raising the capital thresholds in the means test.

The Committee strongly supports giving people more choice and control over their care and support, but emphasises that vulnerable people must be properly protected.

The report concludes that the Government has waited too long to bring forward major reforms to fix social care, 13 years after former Prime Minister Tony Blair promised this would be done. Action is all the more urgent as an ageing population will mean rising demand.

The Committee says it is not too late to achieve consensus and create a lasting solution and that a window of opportunity exists before the first 'baby-boomers' enter their mid-80s in the early 2030s.

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