Comment of the day (part 1):Gordon Brown’s care plan misleads the elderly, say councils – By Sam Lister in yesterday’s Times

More than 70 leaders of social care throughout England are warning that the Government’s plans to provide free home care are flawed, unfunded and will force cuts to current services.

Writing in a letter to The Times, the councillors, representing all three major parties and every geographical region, describe Gordon Brown’s key electoral pledge as ill conceived and likely to put considerable pressure on the social services system.

The letter marks an intensification of the revolt over the Personal Care at Home Bill, the Government’s controversial policy unveiled last year. Critics have accused the Prime Minister of introducing it as a “back-ofthe-envelope” piece of electioneering, underestimating both its cost and how many people would use it.

“We fully support the principle of providing additional support to those with the most critical care needs,” the signatories write. “What we cannot support, however, is a piece of legislation that has major weaknesses and which risks adding further strain to an existing system already under considerable financial pressure.”

It concludes: “It is also wrong to raise expectations among many of the most vulnerable in our society and their families that they may be in a position to benefit from these proposals when the reality may be significantly different.”

The annual cost of the Bill is put at £670 million, which ministers say will allow 400,000 people with the highest needs to stay in their own homes. Of this total, £420 million is to come from existing Department of Health budgets, with local authorities told that they must provide the remaining £250 million from efficiency savings.

It has provoked fierce criticism over the way it was sprung on Parliament and the public midway through consultations over the development of a major legislative programme on long-term care. It is understood that the Treasury also has private concerns about how the Bill would be paid for. Read in full in the Times.

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