Phil Hope: £670m free care pledge is achievable

The care services minister Phil Hope has insisted that the government’s £670m pledge of free care for people with the most critical care needs is workable and will not lead to pain for local authorities.
Speaking to Community Care, Hope said the plan – which he described as the first building block towards a national care service – was carefully thought through and will be a massive boost for people in their own homes.
As previously reported, the pledge will be made up of £420m from the Department of Health’s budget by moving money from some budgets and the remainder from local government efficiency savings.
Hope admitted this aspect has led to many discussions with local authorities. But he insisted that the government’s document Making better use of scarce resources, which is launched tomorrow, shows services for care at home can be delivered in many different ways, such as through telecare or adaptations to people’s home.
“It’s a very exciting commitment,” said Hope. “It’s about providing more independence, whether it’s through the use of telecare and adaptations to people’s homes. It’s about reducing the avoidable use of residential care and the avoidability of acute care.”
It will require legislation to determine eligibility criteria for a target start date of October 2010 – four months after a general election.
Hope insisted: “It’s a building block towards the national care service. The prime minister is very keen we pursue a national care service. We are completing the green paper consultation with a view towards producing a white paper early next year.
“We are putting a major building block by providing free care and we are looking at key questions about closer integration between health and social care.”
He said the Tory plans for care were  “disappointing” because they were wholly about residential care.

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