Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley has pledged to oppose government plans to axe attendance allowance and use the money to fund adult social care.
Speaking at the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Harrogate today, Lansley said a future Conservative government would examine how attendance allowance could be reformed but added that the government’s plans, included in its adult care green paper , would run counter to independent living.
He said: “In our view this isn’t the way forward.We will oppose it,” adding that the green paper had failed to spell out what the impact of moving attendance allowance funding into the social care system would be on recipients of the benefit, which is paid to older disabled people with care needs.
Lansley’s pledge comes with concerns about the plan still riding high, as evidenced by critical comments about the proposal made to care services minister Phil Hope at the conference yesterday.
In response, Hope said: “We aren’t getting rid of attendance allowance.We are taking the budget and reshaping it so everyone gets access to care and support.”
Lansley criticised the government for its failure to address the funding of adult social care earlier. He said: “It’s rather astonishing that we are 12 years into a Labour government and we are only with a green paper. It pretty much like paralysis by analysis and there’s been a lot of analysis.”
He criticised the government’s pledge, made last month by Gordon Brown, to introduce free personal care at home for those with critical care needs as effectively offering a “taxpayer funded option”, despite tax funding being rejected as a solution for finding extra money for the care system in the green paper on affordability grounds.
The free personal care policy would come into force in October 2010, after the general election, and more than three years before the more fundamental reforms initiated by the green paper are due to come into force.
Lansley added: “[It is] not credible to offer it when we can’t afford it. They know it’s politics and not policy and I think it’s irresponsible.”
Lansley spoke of Conservative plans for older people to receive free residential care in return for paying £8,000 into state-regulated insurance schemes on retirement , though he did not spell out eligibility criteria for the scheme.
He said people aged over 65 would be allowed to receive the insurance cover as long as they did not already have long-term care needs.
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