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The government must act soon if it is serious about the Wanless blueprint for the care of older people, writes Stephen Burke

Sir Derek Wanless has kicked off a national debate on what life should be like for the growing number of older people in the next 20 years. Demands and expectations are rising rapidly as older people and their families are not prepared to tolerate the poor care services now available.

The Wanless review sets out an ambitious blueprint for better care for older people, the extra cost and how it could be funded. It recommends a universal entitlement to quality care alongside better housing, use of new technology and support for carers – putting older people in control of the care and support they need. The balance of care will shift to support the growing number of older people who want to live in their own homes.

This gives us an agenda for a national debate on the future of care for older people in the lead-up to the next general election and beyond. What kind of care do we want and who should pay?

But urgent action is needed to end the postcode lottery now facing older people and close the care gap. The 2007 spending review is the first chance for the government to respond with a significant increase in funding to progress towards a universal entitlement to care.

I particularly welcome Wanless’s recommended move from means-testing towards the partnership model of paying for care as a universal entitlement.

We need to agree the vision for better care over the next 20 years and start planning how we will fund it. That requires political leadership – supported by a groundswell of public concern that the care system cannot continue as it is at present.

We have reached a watershed in Britain and must rise to the challenges of our ageing population. The solutions must embrace not just better care but also pensions, benefits, health and housing for older people. And we must be ambitious. The start has to be the 2007 spending review.

Stephen Burke is chief executive of older people’s charity Counsel and Care

See Will Wanless inject hope? and The 30bn question


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