Labour Party conference: Lewis says employers could fund care

Employers could play a greater role in funding adult social care, care services minister Ivan Lewis told a Labour Party conference fringe event yesterday evening.

Lewis hinted that employers could take on more responsibility for older people’s care in line with their existing responsibility for child care.

He told the meeting organised by the Right care, Right deal charity coalition that employers would share responsibility alongside the state, families and individuals for meeting the future costs of care. But said he was “sceptical” about the possibility of raising general taxation to fund care.

The Department of Health is due to publish a green paper on the future of long-term care and support next year and is currently holding a public debate on the issue, which the coalition – comprising Help the Aged, Counsel and Care and Carers UK – is looking to influence. 

Private sector role questioned

Lewis also questioned the potential of the private sector to contribute to the system in the current economic climate, through equity release or insurance schemes. “Given the events of the past few weeks, will people really have confidence in equity release as an option?” he added.

Paul Cann, director of policy at Help the Aged, said high-level and sustained political commitment would be “crucial” for the success of the forthcoming green paper.

‘No help’ culture criticised

Lewis also criticised the “no help culture” in some local authorities, where people who were not eligible for services were left without advice. He argued a universal information and advice service should be “non-negotiable irrespective of need”, as specified by the government’s Putting People First programme to personalise care services.

But the minister said he did not know whether the level of carer’s allowance would be raised, in response to calls from campaigners and a recent work and pensions select committee report.

He said: “The problem is that if we tinker with carer’s allowance it will have a knock-on effect on other benefits.”

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