Local authorities negotiate with Hutton over care trusts

The Local Government Association was due to renew negotiations
with health minister John Hutton this week over proposals included
in the health and social care bill.

Prior to the meeting, the LGA and other public sector and
voluntary organisations had been threatening to demand that care
trusts be removed from the bill.

The bill was due to go to the report stage in the House of Lords
this week and looks likely to reach the statute book now that prime
minister Tony Blair has delayed the general election.

The bill’s social care provision survived scrutiny in the Lord’s
committee stage relatively unscathed, with an LGA amendment calling
for care trusts to be established as new stand alone organisations
into which the health service and local authority could delegate
their services being rejected.

The rebuff means that care trusts will only be developed from
existing NHS bodies. According to LGA chairperson Sir Jeremy
Beecham, this could effectively graft social services onto the NHS,
and hand over care of the most vulnerable people to “unelected

LGA leaders warned that such trusts would be dominated by the
NHS, with local authorities treated as junior partners.

“We have repeatedly pressed for specific information about the
nature of the trusts and have relied on health ministers’
assurances that the trusts would be equal and democratically
accountable,” said Sir Jeremy.

“Anything other than this would signal the end of social care
under democratic control and the dominance of a clinical approach
to the assessment and care of users.”

The LGA also wanted reassurances that selection for trust board
members would lie with local councils, and that local authority
members on the trust board would not be excluded from carrying a
clear accountability for the services delegated to the trust.



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