Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb has spoken of his regret that cross-party talks on the long-term funding of adult care have broken down.
Lamb told Community Care he was sad that “short-term populist campaigning” by the Tories had damaged a consensus for an independent cross-party social care commission that the three parties were edging towards.
“The danger is if the Tories get elected they are into radically cutting the deficit. Interest in getting this problem sorted out might come a long way down the list and it could drift back into the long grass,” he said.
In policy terms the Liberal Democrats are critical of the government’s free personal care pledge and are uncertain about its apparent preferred funding model for the reform of adult social care, which is the comprehensive option.
Under this, everyone aged over 65 would contribute to the costs of care, regardless of whether they ended up needing services.
The party is also critical of the Conservatives’ home protection scheme, under which people would make a one-off payment – estimated at £8,000 – on retirement to insure themselves against future care home costs.
Under this, carers would have maximum control over how they would spend that money.
The longer term approach for reform is remaining committed to the partnership model proposed by Derek Wanless in his landmark report on social care for the King’s Fund.
Under this, the state would pay for about 80% of service users’ personal care costs, with individuals funding the rest.
However, last month the Liberal Democrats downgraded its proposal to provide a “universal care payment” for all eligible pensioners to an “aspiration” for the duration of the next parliament because the £2.6bn annual price tag was deemed unaffordable.
Lamb (pictured) said: “We remain open minded about the final shape of this.”
Unfortunately consensus and resolution are unlikely to happen “before the election,” said Lamb.