Skip to main content

“Shaping the future of care together”

Volume 497: debated on Tuesday 13 October 2009

5. What discussions he has had with the devolved Administrations in relation to the implementation of the proposals in his Department’s Green Paper, “Shaping the future of care together”. (292232)

The Secretary of State wrote to Ministers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland with the full text of the Green Paper before publication. Officials have been in regular contact with their counterparts in the devolved Administrations, and a further series of meetings is planned.

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. In border constituencies such as mine, many constituents—such as those who live in Sedbury and Beachley in my constituency, whose nearest town is Chepstow in Wales—will be very concerned about how this plan would work across borders. In May 2008 Ministers said in the forerunner to this document that they were thinking very carefully about how it would work across devolved borders, so can the Minister give us any idea about any proposals he has come up with—or has the last year and half just passed with no concrete action at all?

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the system of care and support that we want to create—it will be the first ever national care service of its kind—covers a mix of devolved and reserved policy areas, because care is devolved and the benefit system is reserved. We are therefore working closely with the devolved Administrations to ensure that any changes we make to any of the systems provide the best possible outcomes for people in the UK. I cannot pre-empt the consultation in which we are currently engaged to achieve that outcome, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are working closely with the devolved Administrations to get the best possible outcome for everyone’s constituents.

Will the Minister think about how to get agreement with devolved Administrations so that the portability of benefits can extend beyond England, and can in due course, by agreement, be extended to people from England moving to Scotland or Wales, or vice versa, at some future stage?

My hon. Friend has highlighted a key feature of the new national care service that we want to develop: the idea that people’s care assessments should be portable. At present in England different people get different assessments depending on where they live. The proposals in the national care service will ensure that there is a single care assessment, so that people are not identified with different needs according to where in the country they happen to live. That is the kind of discussion about how the system would operate that we are having with counterparts in the devolved Administrations, including Scotland. If there are features of the national care service that have particular merit and benefits, and which the devolved Administrations, for whom this is a devolved matter, wish to replicate, I will be more than happy to enter into discussions with colleagues in those devolved Administrations.

As a prelude to the Green Paper, on 11 June the Minister said here that each MP had to ensure that the money from the carers strategy announced by the Prime Minister actually went to carers. The Princess Royal Trust for Carers reports that of this year’s £50 million, £40 million has gone missing, including in the Minister’s own Northamptonshire primary care trust. Where has the money gone? Does it surprise him that carers feel so let down?

I guess that carers will feel most let down when they hear that the Conservatives are opposing a national care service that will provide a fair, affordable and simple system. [Interruption.] I am talking about the question that the hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper) asked me earlier, about the national care service. That national care service will provide much more help for people both in their own homes and in residential care, unlike any of the proposals that have come forward from the Conservative party. In terms of the allocation of the carers money, I am delighted that the Government—again, the Conservatives voted against this—committed a sum of £150 million to be paid in to the national health service, to be provided by local primary care trusts. It is for PCTs to identify the priorities in their area. We are encouraging organisations, and we will be issuing guidance on how that carers’ support money can be provided, but it is this—