Peers propose amendments to dismantle free care bill

Leading critics of plans to introduce free personal care at home for people with high needs have tabled amendments that could delay or even wreck ministers’ plans.

Labour peers Lords Lipsey and Warner followed up warnings that they would “break” the Personal Care at Home Bill’s “headlong rush” into law, with a series of amendments. These will be debated at the bill’s committee stage in the House of Lords on 22 February.

The proposals, also sponsored by crossbencher and former psychiatry professor Baroness Morgan, would at least delay implementation of the bill and at most wreck the substance of the government’s plans.

Amid concerns from council leaders over the costs on the bill should it become law, one of the amendments would make the introduction of free care at home optional for local authorities.

Another calls for an independent review of the affordability of the proposals amid widespread doubts over government estimates that it would cost £670m a year to introduce, of which £250m would be met from council efficiency savings.

Other amendments would ensure that the bill came into force only after a “commencement order” had been voted on by both Houses of Parliament, and that regulations underpinning the legislation would need to be approved by parliament.

These could ensure that it would be up to the next parliament – with a possible Conservative majority in the House of Commons – to decide when and how the bill came into force.

Earlier this week, the bill passed its second reading in the House of Lords but it was savaged by Lipsey, Warner and others.

Lipsey, Warner and Murphy’s amendments could be joined by two proposals the Local Government Association is looking to introduce through a sponsoring peer.

These would cap local authority costs at £250m a year and delay the bill’s implementation until April 2011.

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