Lord Lipsey: Personal care bill faces rough ride in Lords

Labour peer Lord Lipsey has predicted that the Personal Care at Home Bill will face a “rough ride” as it progresses through the House of Lords.

Lipsey said the bill, which would introduce free personal care at home for people with high-level needs, would “get a forensic going-over in the Lords” where the government lacks a majority.

Lipsey was a member of the Royal Commission on Long Term Care for the Elderly, which reported in 1999, but wrote a minority report opposing its call to introduce tax-funded free personal care.

He previously described prime minister Gordon Brown’s announcement of the free care policy last September as like an “admiral firing an Exocet into his own warship”.

This was in reference to its apparent reversal of the government’s position in its green paper on long-term care reform, published last July, which ruled out free personal care on cost grounds.

The bill could have its second reading in the Lords next week after it passed its third reading unopposed in the Commons on Tuesday.

This was not before the Tories and Liberal Democrats had raised several objections and pushed a number of amendments, all of which either failed or were withdrawn.

Lipsey said: “The cross-benchers hold the balance of power [in the House of Lords] and, from what I understand, they are hostile about this.

“I would expect it to have a very rough ride. Having said that, I don’t think the Tories or Liberal Democrats will want to obstruct the bill because of electoral concerns.”

The Conservatives have confirmed they do not intend to vote against the bill in the Lords but would continue to press the government on how and where local authorities were expected to find £250m a year in efficiency savings – alongside £420m from the Department of Health – to fund the legislation.

Under the bill, about 270,000 people would benefit from free care at home, including 110,000 who now pay for services, out of an estimated 1.8m care users in England.

The bill’s other measure – to provide reablement services to people entering the care system – would benefit an estimated 130,000 people a year.

The government has said the bill is a stepping stone towards the green paper’s aim of establishing a “national care service” with a universal entitlement to publicly-funded care for all eligible users.

But Lipsey said the bill was “partial and ill-judged”. Instead, the country needed a “holistic policy for long-term care”.

He added that the Lords would seek reassurances that the legislation would not come into effect until after a general election, which is widely tipped to be held on 6 May.

Earlier this week, the Liberal Democrats dropped their commitment to provide personal care funding for all eligible older people, two years after abandoning its flagship free personal care policy.

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