Gordon Brown has pledged to introduce free personal care for older people with the highest needs living at home, in his speech to the annual Labour Party conference.
The policy – which is contingent on Labour winning the next election – would be introduced in October 2010, and apply to pensioners in England with critical care needs, under the Fair Access to Care Services eligibility system.
The pledge was not included in the DH’s green paper on the future funding of care, published in July, which proposed that the state should fund some of the personal care costs of all eligible care users, whether in care homes or in their own homes.
Unlike in Scotland, which introduced free personal care in 2002, the policy proposed today by Brown would not apply to older people in care homes or those with lesser needs.
Brown told the conference, in Brighton: “Today more and more people see their parents and grandparents suffering from conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia, and they see their dignity diminish.
“And for too many families the challenge of coping with the heartbreak is made worse by the costs of getting support.
“The people who face the greatest burden are too often those on middle incomes, who have savings which will last a year or two, but then they will see their savings slip away. And the best starting point for our national care service is to help the elderly get the amenities to do what they most want: to receive care and to stay in their homes as long as possible.
“And so for those with the highest needs we will now offer in their own homes free personal care. It’s a change that makes saving worthwhile, makes every family in this country more secure and is a much needed reassurance for the elderly and their children.”