The government today pledged to provide free personal care at home for people with the highest care needs.
The Queen’s Speech also promised legislation to “protect communities by ensuring that parents take responsibility for their children’s antisocial behaviour and by tackling youth gang crime”.
The free care pledge would come into force from October 2010 at an estimated cost of £670m.
The government described the Personal Care at Home Bill as the first step towards a establishing a national care service, the core part of its green paper on adult care funding, published in July.
The bill is estimated by government officials to bring free personal care at home to about 280,000 people including those with serious dementia and Parkinson’s. The 166,000 people who currently received free home care would be protected from future charges.
The bill would also help 130,000 people needing home care for the first time to regain their independence, with £130m invested in reablement and preventive services, such as home adaptations and telecare.
Counsel and Care chief executive Stephen Burke welcomed the pledge, but added: “The devil will be in the detail. We need to see who will be helped and how it will be funded. Care must be taken to avoid creating negative trade-offs for other older people still with considerable needs trying to access care at home.”
He said the plan needed to be matched by further investment in preventive services, including support for older people leaving hospital to regain independence.
The United Kingdom Homecare Association also welcomed the plan but said the money dedicated to the pledge needed to reach frontline services.
Head of policy and communication Colin Angel said: “If all the money is tied up arranging the services rather than it being delivered it doesn’t help the people who need personal care.”
Age Concern and Help the Aged said that minsters were now in a “race against time to deliver on this last-minute agenda”.