Queen’s Speech free personal care pledge: sector reaction

The Queen Speech today set out the government’s proposal to introduce legislation to give free personal care to those in the greatest need, prompting much reaction from the social care sector.

Jenny Owen, president, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services

“Without full access to all the modelling it is difficult in the present circumstances to be absolutely certain how many older people will qualify within the new criteria, nor precisely how much the free aspects of the service will generate additional costs.
“We shall be working closely with the Department of Health in trying to frame the working guidance over the coming months. But local authorities have already wrung substantial efficiency savings from their adult care and other budgets, and it isn’t clear that there is a further £250 million  pound left to wring.

““Free personal  care at home for the older people who are within the criteria is an important, but small part of a very large system which, as the government’s green paper has shown, is in need of a complete and  thorough overhaul.

“Today’s announcement is an important and valued first step on that road.”

Jane Ashcroft, acting chief executive of not-for-profit care and housing provider Anchor Trust

“The free care policy is a knee-jerk reaction to the current political environment. It is a misguided attempt at promoting independent living and we are seriously concerned it will result in older people opting for services that aren’t right for them.

“While it is admirable that the government is willing to invest in extra support for people with critical care, the proposed legislation lacks clarity on funding or how it would fit with the personalisation agenda.

“Ultimately, the proposals could lead to an even greater drain on public resources without having a tangible impact on the quality of life of our older people.”

Esther Foreman, campaigns and policy manager, at Mencap
“Within the Personal Care at Home Bill, Mencap is extremely concerned that money will be diverted from essential support services at a local level for people with a learning disability. Mencap wants more commitment from the Government to invest in social care for people with a learning disability.”

Stephen Burke, chief executive of Counsel and Care
“The forthcoming white paper on the future of care must set out a radical vision of better care for all and how it will be properly funded. People want to know what care and support they and their family will be entitled to and how much they will have to pay.

“Counsel and Care has welcomed the broad vision of a national care service. But it will cost a lot more to meet the needs of our ageing population. We have called for a care duty on estates to bring in much needed extra funding in a way that is fair for all.

“The new care bill is a step on the way to this vision. 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. The commitment to investing further in helping older people leave hospital, regain independence, and return to their own home rather than moving into a care home before they need to is key to investing in prevention.”

Niall Dickson, chief executive of The King’s Fund

“The fact that ministers are committed to fundamental change in this critical area is also good news. The problem is these latest proposals seem to have been hastily put together and appear to cut across the options set out in the government’s own Green Paper.  After all, the government has only just finished consulting us on the very different proposals set out in that document.

“Trying to fix one bit of the system creates its own difficulties and there has to be a real danger of perverse incentives. Instead, what is needed is a comprehensive solution which deals with all those who need long term care and support.”

Andrew Harrop, head of public policy for Age Concern and Help the Aged
“Ministers will be in a race against time to deliver on this last-minute agenda.

“Providing free home care for people with the highest needs and introducing energy price support for households in fuel poverty will provide welcome relief for some of the poorest and most vulnerable older people. But eradicating fuel poverty and fixing the crumbling care system will require much more comprehensive strategies.”

Steve Ford, Chief Executive for the Parkinson’s Disease Society
“While we are pleased to see additional funding for personal care at home, we are extremely concerned that younger people with conditions like Parkinson’s will be at risk of falling through the net and into severe financial difficulty, with reduced independence because the new funding isn’t directed at all those in greatest need.”

David Rogers, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board
“There are many people currently self-funding their care, who will inevitably wish to benefit from the proposal of free care.  The LGA is concerned that the government’s estimates do not appear to have taken these people or those who have never applied before, into consideration. The government needs to demonstrate how the proposed £670m in funding will be sufficient to meet demand.

“Councils will be expected to find at least an additional £250m per year to fund this new proposal.  It is difficult to see how local government will be able to meet this new financial commitment unless government removes existing red tape and bureaucracy, and we will work with government to secure this.  The LGA has long called for council and NHS social care spending to be more closely aligned and having the Department of Health part-fund this commitment is a positive step in the right direction.

“We are still no clearer on what will be included in the personal care package and how it will fit in with the development of personal budgets. To that end, we look forward to studying the fine grain of the bill.”

Imelda Redmond, Chief Executive of Carers UK
“Carers UK has been calling for an end to means-testing for a long time, and we welcome this bill as a stepping stone towards the longer term goal of a national care service. It is critical that full proposals for an overhaul of our crumbling social care system are brought forward as soon as possible.”

Su Sayer, chief executive of disability charity, United Response
“We welcome the government plan’s to introduce a bill to provide free personal care at home for people with the highest care needs.  However it is important that we don’t lose sight of the need to overhaul the entire system, to give greater priority to prevention and early intervention for working age disabled adults as well as older people, and to enabling people to become active citizens.”

Martin Green, chief executive of the English Community Care Association
“It is important that the government allocates enough money to make good this pledge, and if the new policy is in line with its strategy on personalisation this commitment to free personal care should also enable service users to choose domiciliary or residential care as their preferred option.”

Amanda Kelly, partner and social care leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers

“Anything which takes the debate about the future of social care services a step forward should be welcomed. Free personal care for people with the “highest needs” is an attractive prospect. Given the financial pressures affecting all adult services, the devil will be in the detail in terms of how this can be made to work in practice. Assisting individuals to achieve independence and staying at home is a high priority and a daily challenge for local authorities across the country, which we hope the bill will go some way to support.”

Vicky Knowles, head of policy and special projects at Sue Ryder Care

“We recognise the bill as one step in a journey that must culminate in the creation of equitable and accessible care services.
The bill alone will not provide a solution to all of the problems people experience with the current care system; long-term measures also need to be progressed. The government’s vision for a National Care Service with clear entitlements should move forward as this bill passes through Parliament.”


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