Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg promised to provide more help for carers today as he attacked Labour’s “flawed” free personal care policy.
In a keynote speech at the King’s Fund, Clegg said he would amalgamate the current budget allocated for respite care with funds for free personal care, to give more help to people who provide more than 50 hours a week of care for relatives.
Although this would cost around £450m and rise to £500m in a few years, Clegg said this “hidden army” of carers saved the country £87bn a year.
He added: “It’s time to recognise there’s a hidden army of people in Britain without whom no social care policy would be affordable.”
Clegg acknowledged his proposal was only a partial solution and called for the establishment of an independent cross-party commission and for the three leaders of the main parties to meet to agree on a way forward that was fair, affordable and sustainable.
He referred to the breakdown of talks between the three parties on reform and blamed Labour and the Conservatives for elevating “political points-scoring above the basic needs of those in the final years of their lives”.
Dubbing the two rival parties’ policies as piecemeal solutions, he said the Liberal Democrats still believed in a funding model that was a partnership between the state and the individual. However, the party was willing to negotiate to reach consensus, he added.
The Conservatives were criticised for their refusal to appear at a crunch meeting on the reform of adult social care last Friday, which led to agreement on a set of principles for reform.