Charities: Delay to free personal care bill will hurt families

Care charities said today they were “disappointed” that government plans to provide free care at home for people with high needs had been delayed and potentially wrecked.

They were reacting to a series of anti-government amendments to the Personal Care at Home Bill which could lead to it being dropped before the election.

Carers UK and Counsel and Care said they were “concerned” that politicians had lost sight of what free personal care at home would mean for those with critical needs, given the pressures on family finances of care charges.

Dementia tax

And the Alzheimer’s Society said it was also “disappointed” by the news, pointing to the “dementia tax” that people with the condition had to pay because of car charges.

However, the government sounded a note of defiance over the bloody nose it had received and insisted it was “determined” to force the Personal Care at Home Bill through Parliament.

The legislation would also introduce reablement services for people entering or within the care system, and was announced in Gordon Brown’s keynote speech to the Labour conference last year.

Last night the government lost four key votes on amendments, one of which would require that the two Houses of Parliament would have to vote to bring the bill into force after the election.

Cost to families

In a joint statement, Imelda Redmond, chief executive at Carers UK and Stephen Burke, chief executive at Counsel and Care said: “This delay will cost families thousands of pounds to pay for the most basic care, and will mean that 65,000 people will miss out on intensive ‘reablement’ services to help promote independence following ill-health.

Both charities said this made the publication of the forthcoming White Paper on care funding, a point echoed by the Alzheimer’s Society.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health insisted: “We are determined to make this a reality for those people in most need and secure this bill as a first step in the transformation of the care and support system.”

However, this requires both Houses of Parliament to agree a text of the bill, which seems unlikely with the government and House of Lords at loggerheads and just days left until the pre-election dissolution of Parliament.

Council and home care leaders welcome delay

Council leaders welcomed an amendment to delay implementation until April 2011, rather than the planned date of 1 October 2010.

David Rogers, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “Understandably, there will be many families with concerns regarding this delay. Councils now have the time to ensure that the new personal care package is delivered smoothly and efficiently from day one.”

The United Kingdom Homecare Association backed another amendment to delay implementation until a review of the costs of the bill has been carried out, saying ministers needed to prove their plans were affordable.

Calling for long-term reform, Liberal Democrat shadow health secretary Norman Lamb said yesterday’s defeats marked “the death knell of a cynical attempt to buy the votes of older people”.

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