Sixty Second Interviews with Liam Fox and Charles Kennedy
While Labour’s plans for social care have been widely reported on www.communitycare.co.uk and in Community Care magazine, we take a look at the Conservative and Liberal Democrat’s plans for social care policy.
Click here for Sixty Second Interview with Charles Kennedy
Sixty Second Interview with Liam Fox
By Clare Jerrom
How are you going to ensure there is discipline in schools and how will you ensure your policies are not harmful towards children with learning difficulties or disabilities who disruptive behaviour may be linked to their condition?
Conservatives have a five-point plan of action to restore discipline:
* We will give head teachers the final say over exclusions and scrap appeals panels.
* We will give head teachers an unqualified right to insist on parental agreement to discipline as part of the conditions of entry/attendance for their children.
* We will scrap Labour’s plans to force all state schools to take their share of undisciplined pupils.
* We will give schools the funds and financial freedom to introduce random drug- testing, CCTV and metal detectors.
* We will give teachers greater legal protection so that they can enforce discipline without fear of having their lives ruined if a child alleges abuse.
Pupils with conditions associated with poor behaviour will be assessed, as now, by their local education authority for education at a special school. Unlike the current position, we will not make an automatic assumption of mainstream schooling. Instead, this decision will be left exclusively to educational experts and the parents concerned. We will also halt the current moves towards closure of special schools that has seen numbers of places fall from 118,000 to 89,000 a drop of 25%.
Why are you planning to reduce the number of Primary Care Trusts and abolish Strategic Health Authorities and what will be in place instead?
Conservatives have pledged an extra £34 billion a year by 2010 in the NHS. The difference between Conservative and Labour is that we will deliver value for money. We will abolish strategic health authorities because they are an unnecessary tier of bureaucracy, and all money saved from this and cuts in bureaucracy in Primary Care Trusts, will be reinvested in frontline NHS services.
Can you elaborate on your plans to ensure that no one will have to sell their home to pay for their care and what is your stance on free personal care for older people?
Conservatives will cap long-term care costs. If you pay for the first three years of long-term care through your own resources, then a Conservative government will pay for the remainder of your care- without any means test. The scheme will work like an insurance policy that can be paid over a lifetime, rather than being confronted by a huge bill for every year spent in care.
How will you better support carers?
Britain’s army of carers enable millions of people to go on living as far as possible independent lives in their own homes. We are committed to supporting carers in the work they do. We will boost the vital role played by informal carers by expanding and increasing the provision of respite care and we will extend the right to choose to respite care to give more control over the type of help carers receive. A Conservative government is committed to ensuring that more people have greater access to respite care and short breaks when they need it. We will also take action to ensure that carers can look forward to a more secure retirement by introducing a fairer pension which reflects the realities of life for carers.
How will you tackle antisocial behaviour without ensuring that young people are stigmatised?
Antisocial behaviour and low-level crime are increasing concerns in the lives of the forgotten majority that has been let down by Labour. Much of this is accounted for by rising levels of youth offending but anti-social behaviour is not confined to young people. A Conservative government will extend the range of punishments for breaching an asbo so that they can be used more effectively. Under Labour, 4,000 asbos have been issued and more than four in 10 asbos are breached, but only a handful of people have been punished accordingly.
Why are you planning to introduce 20,000 extra prison places and do you not think we should be trying to reduce the prison population?
Under Mr Blair, prison overcrowding has reached crisis point. Prisoners cannot get the education and rehabilitation they need in these conditions. Labour introduced an early release scheme to let criminals out early in a bid to alleviate the overcrowding problem – 4,000 crimes have been committed by criminals that should have been in prison. They have even rejected hundreds of years of British legal history to require judges to take into account the level of the prison population when sentencing for the first time ever. We think this is the wrong approach. We would end Labour’s early release scheme and introduce an honest sentencing policy so that criminals serve the full sentence they’re handed down. In the short term this requires more prison places but the benefit to society of prisoners being able to get the education and rehabilitation they need to go straight once they leave prison will be of overall benefit to our society.
Why are you planning to withdraw from the 1951 Geneva Convention?
The 1951 Convention was designed for a world that existed over 50 years ago, at the height of the cold war. Even Mr Blair has said that he believes it to be out of date. Under the current system, only two of every 10 people claiming asylum in Britain is actually a genuine refugee. Eight out of every 10 asylum applications are from people who are here to play the system not because they are refugees. Only 1 in 5 of them is ever then removed from the country. It is because of the 1951 Convention that we cannot stop these people coming to Britain to claim asylum in the first place. The Conservative plan, to take a set number of genuine refugees direct from the UNHCR will allow us to help more genuine refugees than we do under the current system. The notion that the system that operates in Britain today, with the 1951 convention, is beneficial to genuine refugees, is ludicrous.
Will your plans to set an overall quota on the number of asylum seekers allowed in the country each year not result in people in genuine need being denied a safe haven and support?
No. We will almost certainly be able to take more genuine refugees than Britain currently does at the moment. There is no question that we would deny support to those people that are genuinely in need.
Can you elaborate on your plans to extend drug treatment centres?
The best way of getting people off drugs is through coercive residential rehabilitation. The government’s plans aim for ‘treatment’, which may only mean a counselling session once a week. Our plans, based on the Swedish drug model, will allow people the chance to break the cycle of addiction and re-offending. We will offer them a stark choice – prison or rehabilitation. That is why we are committed to expanding tenfold the number of residential rehab places available in Britain so we can get a grip on Britain’s drug problem and cut crime.
What do you think about the proposals in the green paper on adult social care, including the aim for an increased take-up of direct payments?
We are determined that patients and carers must have more choice in the care and support they receive, our right to choose policy will give them the control and flexibility they so badly need. We want to allow more people to take control of the care they receive by making them more responsive to peoples needs and easier to use. A Conservative government will promote carers co-operatives and greater use of advocacy and support services to give greater help with employment contracts and recruitment of personal carers. We will review the regulations governing the use of direct payments, reduce bureaucratic burden placed on those using them. We want to bring benefits to as many people as possible by promoting greater flexibility to help find their own creative solutions to their care needs. We will also pilot a new national carer count to give people genuine choice from a wide variety of services anywhere in the country.
Are you committed to the reforms to children’s services as outlined in Every Child Matters?
We support the aims set out in the government paper. Giving children the best start in life is fundamental to any government. Child protection is fundamental to this. Conservatives have major concerns over government inability to deliver the help and support that children need. In particular the outcomes for looked-after children are particularly worrying. We see the highest number of children in care for over 10 years, an increase of over 20 since Labour came to power, the number of children spending more than 12 months in care has risen every year for the last 4 years. More than half of children in care fail to get a single qualification and only 1% go on to university compared to 40% nationally. We will tackle the inadequacies in Britain’s care system and ensure that the needs of children come before bureaucratic targets or government dictats. We will put in place measurers to ensure children leave the care system equipped for adult life.
If the Conservatives were voted into power, how would you ensure social care policy is a priority for ministers?
We want to ensure that decisions over issues such as social care are taken by health care professionals not by ministers. We are determined to give control back to doctors, nurses and care professionals. We will allow them to get on with the job of offering first rate care to those that need it, free from Whitehall interference.