Care providers have emerged as the harshest critics of the care White Paper, amid support from other groups for the reform plan launched yesterday by health secretary Andy Burnham.
Private care home provider Barchester Healthcare and not-for-profit care and housing provider Anchor Trust slammed ministers for failing to spell out how care should be funded in future and referring the issue to an independent commission instead.
Mike Parsons, chief executive at Barchester, which provides care for 10,000 people, said: “This really is a cop out; the case of presentation over content. Lots of noble words but read the small print and it is a sleight of hand.”
He said the decision to refer the funding issue to a commission – 11 years after the government rejected proposals from its Royal Commission on the Long Term Care of the Elderly – was “another attempt to kick the issue into the long grass.”
Anchor’s chief executive Jane Ashcroft said: “This is shocking prevarication over an issue that was hugely pressing ten years ago and has only become more intense.”
She welcomed the government’s decision to provide free residential care from 2014 to people who had been in care homes for over two years, but warned: “Today local authority funding barely covers the cost of care. With growing numbers of older people I am deeply concerned that [this] public subsidy will only cover a no-frills Easy Care service at a time when people are most vulnerable and most in need.”
The anger is in contrast to the broadly supportive approach taken by charities campaigning for older people and carers.
The Care and Support Alliance, which represents 20 organisations including Carers UK and Age Concern and Help the Aged, described the white paper as a “bold vision to end the postcode lottery in care with a system where the whole population shares the costs, rather than leaving the most vulnerable people in our society at risk of devastating care charges”.
But it called for more detail on how the national care service would be funded.
Charities representing working-age disabled adults were less positive.
Ruth Scott, director of policy and campaigns at disability charity Scope, said it had “failed to grasp the nettle with regard to the current social care crisis facing working-age disabled people.”
Among local government respondents, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services welcomed aspects of the White Paper – including the principle of a care service free at the point of need and the creation of a national leadership group of stakeholders to advise ministers on reform.
However, president Jenny Owen raised concerns over how councils would manage to implement interim reforms – such as free residential care after two years – when “pressures on public sector budgets will be at their highest”.