The political debate on the future of long-term care for the elderly and disabled has descended into acrimony over the past fortnight and has become a clear election issue.
The Conservatives accused the government of planning a “£20,000 death tax” to pay for care on the basis of press reports denied by the government, and accompanied the charge with a poster of a gravestone.
David Cameron made this the centrepiece of his attack on Gordon Brown at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday 10 February. The Tory leader also picked up on an open letter to The Times from social care leaders from over 70 councils criticising government plans to introduce free care at home for people with high needs.
Brown then accused Cameron of breaking a “consensus” on reforming care – a reference to behind-the-scenes talks on the future of care involving representatives of all three parties.
It was also claimed that Labour council leaders were leaned upon by the government to withdraw their signatures from the letter to The Times.
Then health secretary Andy Burnham invited both his political opponents – the Tories’ Andrew Lansley and the Lib Dems’ Norman Lamb – to a conference with social care stakeholders to discuss the future funding of care.
On the same day, a coalition of eighteen charities and sector organisations called for the parties to stop squabbling and work together to forge consensus, in another letter to The Times.
However, in an acrimonious three-way BBC television debate, Lansley said he would not attend the conference unless Burnham ruled out introducing a compulsory inheritance levy to pay for care, something the health secretary refused to do. Lamb pledged to attend the event.
Lamb urged Lansley to attend saying the Tories would be “betraying older voters” if they did not take part in efforts to forge consensus on the issue.
Following the meeting social care leaders called for politicians to achieve consensus as soon as possible after the election and agreed a broad set of principles on which care and support organisations and local government are able to agree.
Key among these, which could cause a problem for the Conservative Party, was a broad agreement for the comprehensive funding proposal, involving an element of compulsion.
Here is Community Care’s coverage of the fortnight’s events.
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