Social care White Paper: attendance allowance stays for now

The social care White Paper, published today by health secretary Andy Burnham, has ruled out scrapping attendance allowance or disability living allowance for the duration of the next parliament.

The announcement came as the government backed a national care service – free at the point of need – but referred any decision on how it should be funded to a new cross-party commission, meaning implementation would be delayed until 2016 at the earliest.

The White Paper said a re-elected Labour government would not use AA or DLA to fund any of the proposed interim care funding measures which it would implement in the next parliament, including free residential care for people who have already spent two years in a care or nursing home.

The proposal in last year’s care Green Paper for money to be transferred from AA – a cash payment for disabled pensioners – to fund care sparked fury among disability and older people’s charities, and has been vigorously opposed by the Tories.

However, the White Paper did not reject the idea of using attendance allowance to fund the full national care service, though it would be open to the proposed commission to dimiss the idea.

The commission, announced today, would be set up after the election with a remit to find a consensus on how a national care service could be funded, and would be accompanied by a national care service leadership group to advise government on the way forward.

Other proposals for the next Parliament include:-

  • A National Care Service Bill to lay the foundations for the national care service.
  • The introduction of nationally consistent eligibility criteria across England for social care.
  • Ensuring that by 2012 everyone who can benefit from a personal budget has one.
  • The introduction of a quality framework for social care and a body to drive up quality.

The government strongly backed the Green Paper proposal for a “comprehensive” funding system, under which everyone aged over 65 would contribute to the costs of care and those in need received it for free.

It said this was the option that won most backing from the public and stakeholders during the Green Paper consultation and meant the costs of care would be shared “collectively, fairly and transparently”.

However, its decision to defer any decision on how it should be funded will be seen as a victory for the Conservatives’ “death tax” campaign against any compulsory levy to fund care.

The Tories, who support a voluntary insurance system to fund residential care costs, said the government’s failure to back a compulsory levy meant it was in “complete retreat” and that the White Paper was a “train crash”.

David Congdon, head of campaigns and policy at Mencap, said: “We are concerned that at this stage there is still no sustainable, long-term funding plan for social care – even after two consultations. A funding plan needs to be decided as a matter of urgency.”

The White Paper also announced concessions on the Personal Care at Home Bill to introduce free personal care at home for people with high needs, after the House of Lords introduced amendments to delay – and possibly prevent – its introduction.

With the bill due to return to the House of Commons today to consider the amendments, the White Paper said it should come into force in 2011, effectively accepting a Lords amendment to delay implementation from October 2010 to April 2011.

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