The Conservatives will wait until the government’s green paper is published before preparing their policy on adult care funding, shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien confirmed today.
In a debate between representatives of the three major parties, hosted by the Local Government Association, O’Brien said he did not have a “bucketful of money” nor a “precise answer” to the question of how social care should be funded in future.
Instead, he promised to continue to challenge the government to come out with a concrete, costed proposal, accusing it of dragging its feet on the issue. This echoes comments he made at last year’s National Children and Adult Services Conference.
Hope attacks O’Brien
Care services minister Phil Hope attacked O’Brien’s failure to come up with a policy at today’s debate, but was unable to say when the government would publish its green paper.
The paper, which is likely to include a range of options rather than a preferred model, is due to be produced in the spring but there are concerns that it will be delayed until the summer or even later.
Hope vowed that the reform agenda would not be thrown off course by the economic downturn but admitted that social care was facing increased pressures as a result of it.
Lib Dems back Wanless
The Liberal Democrats’ health spokesperson, Norman Lamb, reiterated his party’s commitment to Derek Wanless’s partnership model for funding social care for older people.
Under this, the state would pay two-thirds of the personal care costs of those deemed eligible for public support, and match contributions from individuals up to the full cost.
The Lib Dems have estimated that the measure would cost £2bn a year.
After the debate, Lamb told Community Care that the party thought this could be funded through a transfer from the current NHS budget.
Deferred payments difficulties
O’Brien urged the government to examine the case for transferring NHS resources to adult social care through the green paper process, though said this was not Tory party policy.
The conference was also told that older people were struggling to obtain deferred payment deals from councils to pay for care. Under these, councils put a charge on service users’ homes to fund their residential care and then recover the money after the properties are sold.
Pauline Thompson, social care policy adviser for Age Concern, said the economic climate was making councils reluctant to grant deferred payment schemes.