We have held 28 “Big Care Debate” events in nine regions in England, which were attended by about 1,000 people. In addition, there have been more than 10,000 responses to the public consultation. I have also received 29 written parliamentary questions and 141 letters and e-mails about the care and support Green Paper.
I thank the Secretary of State for that response. A number of my constituents have contacted me about the Green Paper. Typical of their responses was one from a lady who said:
“I am deeply concerned about the proposals in the green paper to hand disability benefits over to the local authorities…It has taken me a long time to get the DLA Lifetime Award which is a tremendous help to me and has enabled me to go out and get a job and actually live my life a lot easier and I am also less dependent on people to do things for me.”
Will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to reassure my constituent that the Government will not take away awards such as the disability living allowance and the carer’s allowance, which allow people to live independently and with dignity?
We think that there is an argument for combining some disability benefits with the funding that goes towards social care to create a better system for care and support. I also want to reassure the hon. Gentleman’s constituent that no decisions have been taken on this matter. Obviously, we are consulting on it through the Green Paper. The main point that I want to put across is that whatever changes we make, we want to ensure that under a new and better care system people can still get an equivalent level of support to that which they are used to. We would want to replicate the level of control that his constituent describes under the new national care service that was described by the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Phil Hope).
I would say to the Chairman of the Select Committee on Health that we have to be careful to ensure that it is fair across the generations. To say that the cost of social care should be fully funded by the taxpayer raises a genuine question about whether that is fair to today’s working-age population, who obviously face their own pressures. The proposal at the heart of the Green Paper, in all the scenarios, is a partnership between the state and the individual. We think that that will be the fairest way to proceed, but obviously there are different ways in which that partnership could be constructed.