Political leaders urged to stop bickering over social care reform

An Age Concern and Help the Aged poll has revealed that six out of 10 adults think politicians are not doing enough to work together to improve the care and support system.

The merged charity released the findings today ahead of its cross-party care summit on social care reform. This will bring together health secretary Andy Burnham, and his Tory and Liberal Democrat shadows, Andrew Lansley and Norman Lamb, providing a neutral platform for the main parties to debate the future funding of care.

This follows last month’s boycott by Lansley of a similar summit called by Burnham, after the health secretary refused to rule out introducing a compulsory inheritance levy to pay for care – dubbed a “death tax” by the Tories.

Mature debate needed

Michelle Mitchell, charity director, Age Concern and Help the Aged, said: “We need a mature debate on social care reform and hope that our care summit will be the first step in helping politicians put forward long-term solutions that will benefit generations to come.”

However, ahead of the conference, the Liberal Democrats attacked the Conservatives’ plan to allow pensioners to pay £8,000 to insure themselves against the cost of residential care as “unworkable, unfair and unaffordable”.

The Tory policy is designed to prevent people from having to sell their homes to fund care.

Lib Dems attack Tories

However, the Lib Dems found that most pensioners would have to at least release equity from their homes to fund the £8,000. The party found that:

• 63% of pensioner couples did not have £16,000 in non-housing assets.

• 71% of single female pensioners and 64% of single male pensioners did not have £8,000 in non-housing wealth.

Age Concern and Help the Aged’s poll also found that eight out of ten people believed reform of the care and support system was among the most important issues in the coming election, while 15% of people said it was the single most pressing question for the election.

Today’s summit will include speeches from Burnham, Lansley and Lamb; a question and answer session with an audience of older people, carers and care experts; and an opportunity for the politicians to participate in in-depth discussion groups.

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