As the Secretary of State said in his statement to the House last week, the Government welcome the report of the Commission on Funding of Care and Support and will consider its recommendations carefully.
The Government may say that they welcome the report, but can the Minister explain why the White Paper on social care will now be published in spring 2012 rather than in December 2011, as the commission’s report recommends? Do the Government want it to be kicked into the long grass because of Treasury interference?
The hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong. The Government’s approach is to have discussions with the official Opposition and to engage fully with stakeholders from Age UK, Carers UK and many other organisations, not just about funding reform—which is an important part of our reform of social care—but about questions of quality and law reform.
That important question must be partly addressed by the hon. Gentleman's colleagues in the Welsh Assembly, but one of the issues raised by the Law Commission’s recommendations on law reform that we must address is that of ordinary residence tests to ensure that people have access to the right care at the right time and in the right place.
Does the Minister agree that the Government need to act quickly on the commission’s report, not least because the Southern Cross situation, which is affecting many people in my constituency, has shown that the current model, which involves relying largely on private care, is simply not sustainable?
We will return to that important matter later, with the urgent question. However, we must examine the position of Southern Cross and the business model that underpinned it very carefully, in order to understand how such a model was agreed to under the arrangements for regulating care providers that existed before the establishment of the Care Quality Commission.
It is now more than a decade since Sir Derek Wanless first identified a funding gap in long-term care for the elderly. I welcome the Dilnot report, but will the Government act quickly to establish a partnership arrangement enabling private money contributed through insurance to be added to some public money, so that that funding gap can be filled?
The answer to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman’s question is that the Government are already committed, through the spending review, to the provision of an additional £7.2 billion for social care over the next four years, which will involve an unprecedented transfer of resources from the NHS to social care. As for the second part of his question, the Dilnot report makes many recommendations, and the Government will work through them and present their conclusions next year.
The question of who benefits from the proposals, and by how much, depends on the assumptions made about the potential maximum outlay on care home residence under the existing arrangements. That may change as the length of time for which people live in care increases. Does the Minister accept that if the implementation of the proposals is to be progressive, both now and in the future, the Government will need to test, and keep under review, their assumptions about the longest likely duration of care in homes?
That is an important point. One of the factors that will change those assumptions is the extent of our effectiveness in preventing and postponing the need for such services. “A vision for adult social care”, which we published last year, emphasised the need for more investment in preventive measures. That is why we have provided, and continue to provide, additional resources for reablement, which not only does the individuals concerned a great deal of good but saves money for social services authorities.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and the exchanges on the Secretary of State’s statement last week made it plain that we are committed to having those discussions and working to secure a long-lasting reform. That is the only way in which such a reform can secure the necessary changes, both in law and funding, for this country.
The Southern Cross crisis is causing extreme anxiety to the people who live in the homes, including the one at Hopton Mews in Armley, in my constituency. How will the Government ensure that local authorities and the Care Quality Commission have the necessary resources to oversee the transfer of homes to their new operators?
I shall certainly elaborate on how we are doing that in greater detail later. For some months we have been working with the landlords, the lenders and Southern Cross, and making sure that local authorities are fully prepared for any likely contingency and the CQC is ready to deal with re-registrations, should that become necessary.
The Minister of State has told us that one of the reasons why the publication of the White Paper has been delayed is to allow cross-party talks, so I wonder whether he can help us: when will the meeting between the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition take place?
I am surprised that the hon. Lady does not know. As I understand it, there is a date in all three people’s diaries, but it is not for me to share that date. Although we do need to have cross-party talks between the leaders and the health spokespeople involved, we should also look back and draw some lessons from the royal commission on long-term care. What surprises me is that when that report was published by the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson), all that was offered was a debate—not a debate that the Government would lead, but a debate that would take place across the country. We are still waiting for the end of that debate. This Government have a timetable and a commitment to engage.