Younger disabled adults will be allowed to keep their disability living allowance but pensioners' attendance allowance may still be replaced under plans to reform adult care funding, health secretary Andy Burnham said yesterday.
Speaking to the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Harrogate, Burnham also promised to bring forward the implementation of proposed age legislation for health and social care to 2012, the same date proposed for other industries.
The government's adult care green paper, published in July, had said it was considering using money from disability benefits to boost adult social care budgets, as part of plans for a new national care service.
Though ministers had made clear that this was most likely to involve transferring money from attendance allowance, which is paid to over-65s with care needs caused by disability, the green paper had sparked significant concerns that DLA for working-age adults would also be affected.
But in his speech Burnham said: “We recognise that this is an important benefit for disabled people, and I can state categorically that we have now ruled out any suggestion that DLA for under-65s will be brought into the new national care service.”
'We have heard concerns'
Speaking after his speech Burnham said the government had listened to the concerns of disability groups, adding: “We have heard the concerns and the worries about disability living allowance. It’s a very well targeted benefit.”
The announcement was strongly welcomed by the Disability Charities Consortium, a coalition including Scope, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Radar, Mind and Mencap.
It said: "This represents a real victory for disabled people who felt very strongly that the DLA should be retained and made their collective voice heard on this issue. DLA is a lifeline for the 2.8 million disabled adults of working age who are cut out of the social care system."
Majority of affected are older people
Explaining the announcement, Burnham said the majority of people needing care in the future would be older people, making it appropriate to consider using AA to help fund increases in care spending.
However, he sought to reassure existing AA claimants that they would not lose out: “The important principle is that people receiving any of the relevant benefits at the time of reform would continue to receive an equivalent level of support.”
His reassurances reflected those of care minister Phil Hope, in an address to the same conference on Wednesday.
Tory move welcomed
However, in a move welcomed by the Alzheimer's Society, Burnham's opposite number, Andrew Lansley told the conference yesterday that a future Conservative government would retain AA as a separate benefit.
Burnham said that despite their opposing positions on social care, the fact that the Tories were putting forward policies meant "we are beginning to create what I wanted to see - unstoppable momentum for legislation in the next Parliament".
Burnham also accepted recommendations from a review of age discrmination in health and social care, published yesterday, to implement the proposed ban on ageism at the same time in the two sectors as in other industries.
The Department of Health had originally considered implementing the ban, which is included in the current Equality Bill, at a later date given the complexities involved.
Burnham added: "Meeting that deadline is ambitious, but achievable – and it’s vital if a central tenet of the national care service, the pursuit of fairness and equity, is to be upheld."
Counsel and Care chief executive Stephen Burke welcomed the announcement, adding: “If the will and the resources are there then it is achievable.”
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