White Paper backs free care service but defers ‘death tax’ plan

Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham

Health secretary Andy Burnham will back a national care service free at the point of need but defer a decision on how it will be funded in a White Paper today.

The long-awaited document will set up a cross-party care commission to debate the best way of funding the service for older and disabled people, but any change would be delayed until 2016 at the earliest, after the next Parliament.

Labour has dropped any immediate plan to introduce a compulsory levy on older people and their estates after it was dubbed a “death tax” by the Conservatives, despite Burnham indicating his strong support for the idea.

The cross-party commission is designed to get efforts to forge consensus on reform back on track, after talks broke down over the death tax row.

In an article for The Guardian and an interview with The Times, Burnham said that the white paper would also:-

  • Announce plans to provide free residential care for people after they have spent two years in a care home, though this is believed to cover personal care costs and not accommodation.
  • Restate the government’s commitment to free personal care at home for people with high needs, with the government likely to make concessions to get its Personal Care at Home Bill through before the election, after it was dismantled by the House of Lords.
  • Outline options for how a fully funded national care service would be paid for, including through people delaying their retirement or facing a 10% charge on their estates, the so-called “death tax”.
  • Say that a re-elected Labour government would legislate to introduce a compulsory funding levy in the next Parliament but delay implementation until after the following election.
  • Set out how its interim measures would be funded, including through the freeze on inheritance tax thresholds outlined in last week’s Budget and a transfer of funding to social care from the NHS budget.

Community Care will be providing full coverage on the White Paper from 12.30pm onwards.

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