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Social Care

Volume 548: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2012

The draft Care and Support Bill contains clauses that support our commitment to introduce a universal deferred payments scheme and a national eligibility threshold. We have set out our intention to base a new funding model on the principles of the Dilnot commission model and we will take a decision in the next spending review.

Last week the Secretary of State dismissed the concerns of Labour MPs about councils being hard pressed to find funds to implement any of the proposals. The Local Government Association stated that there was no money. Will the Minister now commit to legislation in this Parliament to sort out the funding of social care at local level?

It does not need legislation to sort out the amount of money that goes into social services; it does need legislation, however, to put in place a universal deferred payments scheme. We have made it clear that we will fully fund the commitment that we have already announced and we will work with the Local Government Association and others on its detailed design and implementation.

The verdict of the Care and Support Alliance on the delay in introducing legislation to reform social care funding is this:

“Each day of delay condemns greater numbers of older and disabled people to the risk of isolation and neglect,”

trapping people in hospital and pushing many more carers to “breaking point”. Just when will the Government realise the damage done by delaying the decision to do anything about funding social care?

In fact, in October 2010 this Government took an important decision about the funding of social care: to invest an extra £7.2 billion. I wish Opposition Members would stop running local authorities down and support the ones that are doing the right thing and ensuring that they spend the money the Government have provided to them on social care, rather than cutting those services. That is what I am doing; I hope that the hon. Lady will as well. I just wish that she had prefaced her comments by apologising for 13 years of Labour failure on social care.

I welcome my hon. Friend’s statement today and the announcements last week about the future structure and the commitment to introduce legislation later in this Parliament in line with the draft Bill. Will he confirm that it is the Government’s intention to pursue the cross-party talks on funding options for the Dilnot package, and that if solutions can be found, they can be included in the legislation that is introduced?

Notwithstanding some of the perhaps intemperate exchanges we have in this place, my colleagues and I are still determined, if those on the Opposition Front Bench are, to engage in talks on how we reform the funding system. Indeed, the debate we had in the Chamber last night confirmed that both sides of the House wish to support the principles of the Dilnot reforms, so I hope that we can have such talks and that they can be reflected in the Bill.

I welcome the Government’s commitment to support the provision of free and fully integrated end-of-life care. While the palliative care funding pilots are progressing, can lessons be learnt quickly in my borough of Enfield where, sadly, most people are dying in hospital rather than, as is their choice, at home or with the support of local hospices?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Just last week we published the world’s first ever survey of bereaved people’s experiences of the end-of-life care received by loved ones. It revealed quite stark variations from one part of the country to another, and will prove a valuable tool in driving up performance of areas that are not doing well by families in end-of-life care. As for the White Paper, we have said clearly that we are committed to doubling funding for the pilots to ensure that we have the data to take decisions about the introduction of free personal care when it comes to end of life.

Opposition Members are genuine in our desire to reach cross-party consensus on the funding of social care. Will the Minister demonstrate his Government’s seriousness by agreeing to include Treasury Ministers directly in the cross-party talks, as Labour has offered to do from the start?

Talks that start with lots of preconditions are not going to be very good talks to start with. The Government always retain the responsibility for making decisions about taxation and spending priorities. We set out our position last week on the Dilnot Commission, and we now have a clear basis for talks, as those on both sides of the House seem to agree on the principles of Dilnot as the basis for reform.