Carer Watch: Televise cross-party talks on care

A carers’ campaign group has called for this Friday’s conference on the future funding of social care to be televised to ensure full openness.

Carer Watch said that, after “a week of revelations regarding secret meetings between health spokesmen”, the event needed be held in the open and shown using Parliament TV, with full minutes available afterwards.

Health secretary Andy Burnham called the conference on Saturday after behind-the-scenes cross-party talks on the future funding of care broke down over Conservative charges that the government planned to introduce a “death tax” – a compulsory levy on estates – to finance care.

Burnham has invited sector leaders and his Tory and Liberal Democrat opposite numbers – Andrew Lansley and Norman Lamb – to attend the event.

But in an angry exchange between all three men on BBC One’s Politics Show yesterday, Lansley said he would not attend unless Burnham ruled out a compulsory levy, something the health secretary refused to do.

Carer Watch said it had e-mailed its suggestion for a televised conference to the three health spokespeople and had received Lamb’s backing.

The Department of Health said it was still finalising the details of the conference.

Jenny Owen, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said the association was looking forward to the discussions but emphasised it was “absolutely essential that all interested parties meet to discuss [the issues] in a calm and purposeful way”.

The Conservatives support a voluntary insurance system to protect people from the costs of residential care – at an estimated cost of £8,000.

Responding to the dispute, a Tory spokesperson said that the parties disagreed so fundamentally on this issue that, with a general election looming, voters should be allowed to decide.

Yesterday, Lansley released a proposed statement of funding principles on care funding reform that he sent Lamb during the all-party talks on the future of social care and called on the health secretary to do the same.

This suggested that individuals should be able to support their personal contributions to care costs through insurance, but accepted there was “scope for different policy views” on issues, including whether there should be compulsory or voluntary insurance contributions.

Lansley said he “made clear during our conversations that I would not accept a compulsory levy”.

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