Parties rally round Wanless for long-term care solution

The three main parties have backed the case for a political consensus on reforming long-term care funding ahead of next year’s green paper on the issue, with Derek Wanless’ proposed model looking the most likely candidate.

That was the message from a debate between care services minister Ivan Lewis, shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien and Liberal Democrat health spokeperson Norman Lamb organised by the King’s Fund last week. The fund commissioned Wanless’ review into older people’s social care, which last year advocated replacing means-testing with a “partnership model”, in which all eligible service users would receive some state-funded care regardless of wealth (see box).

Last month, the government pledged to produce a green paper on adult care, but has refused to signal its thinking on funding reform, besides retaining means-testing in some form.

In last week’s debate, Lewis refused to back the partnership model, but said consensus was “crucial”, at a time when the Conservatives are already backing Wanless’ solution and the Liberal Democrats are considering it as part of a policy review.

However, he warned: “If we did move to a far greater level of state subsidy we would have to raise taxes to pay for it. In any system that leads us to be more generous on a universal basis we have to find the money from somewhere.”

O’Brien reiterated the Conservatives’ backing for Wanless and claimed it had sufficient wider support for the central issue to be establishing how it would work in practice.

While the Liberal Democrats remain officially committed to free personal care, Lamb agreed there was potential for consensus. However, he disagreed with O’Brien’s view that the government had to stick to the 1% annual real terms growth in local government funding for 2008-11 announced in last month’s comprehensive spending review.

“We have to go beyond the spending envelope set by the spending review,” Lamb said. “The brutal truth is that there is not enough money in social services at the moment.”

Under the model, everyone would receive a level of free care equivalent to two-thirds of the cost of their ideal care package. Above this, the state would match fund contributions from individuals up to the full cost of care, with the poorest having their contributions met through the benefits system.

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More information
Wanless report

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Mark Ivory

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