Free care bill savaged but passes Lords second reading

Legislation to introduce free personal care at home for people with high needs was savaged in a House of Lords debate yesterday but passed its second reading.

The Personal Care at Home Bill will now be scrutinised in more detail in its committee stage, which will take place in the House of Lords chamber from 22 February.

Former government minister Lord Warner failed in his bid to delay the committee stage until the government had reported on its consultation on regulations and guidance to implement the bill, which closes on 23 February.

Warner’s motion was defeated by 105 votes to 23.

However, he – and other peers – had earlier laid into the legislation, which Warner described as a “seriously flawed bill that has been inadequately discussed and scrutinised, and takes us down an unaffordable path”.

Warner, a former social services director cited a survey released over the weekend by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, which found that the government had “seriously underestimated” the costs of the legislation.

Adass found that councils calculated the cost of providing free care at home for people with high needs as about £200 a week on average – double the government’s estimates.

However, speaking for the government, Baroness Thornton defended the costings, saying they were based on an independent analysis carried out by the Personal Social Services Research Unit, including detailed modelling.

She also defended the bill’s substance, saying it would end the “lottery of personal care charges” for people with the greatest needs and enable them to stay in their own homes, while the legislation’s other measure – to provide reablement support for an estimated 130,000 people a year – would promote independence.

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