Labour has backed a national minimum entitlement to care for all adults in need, ahead of next month’s Dilnot commission report on care funding.
In a key speech today, shadow health secretary John Healey said the Dilnot reforms should be based on the idea that “everyone should share a responsibility to contribute and everyone should share a right to some support”.
The Dilnot commission is due to report on 4 July with recommendations for a new system of care funding that will inform legislation next year.
People’s entitlement to care should kick in “at the start of care need”, said Healey, with national consistency and portability in assessments, enabling early intervention to prevent people’s needs escalating.
Healey attacked the current means-tested funding system for excluding many people on low and middle incomes from state-funded support, saying many saw “their modest equity or savings swallowed up by care bills”.
In a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research, he said this meant the government would need to provide more funding for social care through general taxation but that individuals would need to make a “fair contribution”, either throughout their working lives or from accumulated assets in older age.
Before the last election, Labour backed a “national care service”, with services offered free at the point of need, and funded by a combination of taxation and compulsory contributions from individuals.
Dilnot is believed to have ruled out a compulsory system of care insurance, though may promote a system in which individuals are automatically enrolled into care savings schemes they can then opt out of.
Healey hinted that he may favour this approach, pointing to the need to find “ways of shaping people’s choices” and to the introduction next year of the National Employment Savings Trust pension scheme. Staff without an occupational pension will be automatically enrolled in this.
In a wide-ranging speech, Healey also repeated Labour’s call for tighter financial regulation of care providers to prevent commercial failings hurting service users, in the light of the Southern Cross case.
He also called on ministers to consider registering all social care staff to professionalise the wider workforce. This idea was longstanding government policy under Labour but was ditched before the 2010 election in favour of voluntary licensing of staff, an approach that has been picked up by the coalition.
However, Healey said: “We cannot expect residents to be treated with dignity and respect if the staff looking after them are not.”
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