Stephen Burke: Free care bill must be start of radical reforms

Legislation to introduce free personal care at home for people with acute needs must be the start of a radical reform of the care system, Counsel and Care’s annual conference will be told today.

Chief executive Stephen Burke was due to tell the conference that the current Personal Care at Home Bill was insufficient in itself to address the problems affecting the care system.

He will tell delegates: “Clearly better care at home is what most older people want and if it’s ‘free’, then even better. But we need to ensure that proper support is available in local communities so that staying at home doesn’t mean loneliness, isolation and neglect.

“It has to mean more than four 15-minute visits a day, rushing older people in and out of bed with no support to eat proper meals, chat and enjoy life. And it must recognise that a care home will still be the option of choice for many older people and their families.”

The government will set out its plans for longer-term reform of the care funding system in England in a white paper before the general election, which is expected to take place in May.

Ambitious agenda

However, Burke was also due to raise concerns that an “ambitious agenda” could be derailed by financial considerations amid budget cuts to services and increasing charges for users by councils.

He was expected to renew previous calls for the introduction of a levy on estates to pay for care, adding: “This would be seen as fair and simple, much fairer than losing your home to pay for residential care.”

The closest idea to this put forward by the government so far is its comprehensive insurance proposal, included in last year’s green paper.

State insurance scheme

Under this, everyone who could afford to would pay into a state insurance scheme on retirement or death and this pot would be used to fund care for all eligible users.

Burke was expected to conclude: “The potential rewards are huge. The economic and social benefits would far outweigh the costs. And despite looming cuts in public spending, with older people and their carers making up the majority of voters at the election, no party can afford to be less than ambitious in its manifesto.”

The conference takes place in London.

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