Supporters of Gordon Brown’s flagship free personal care legislation are concerned it will not be implemented, despite being passed into law by the House of Lords yesterday.
Carers UK – part of a broad voluntary sector coalition backing the Personal Care at Home Act 2010 – warned that the legislation could simply lie on the statute book without being put into practice.
The act, which was only saved after the government offered key concessions to opponents, received Royal Assent on Parliament’s last sitting day before the election.
The legislation, announced by Brown at last year’s Labour conference, is designed to provide free care at home for 280,000 people with the highest needs and reablement support for 130,000 people a year.
However, in a concession made to its critics in the Lords, the government agreed that both Houses of Parliament will have to approve implementation of the measure in a vote after the next election.
Without this, it will not come into force.
Emily Holzhausen, Carers UK’s policy and public affairs director, said: “This means it’s by no means a foregone conclusion. It will depend on the make-up of the Houses of Parliament.”
Though the Conservatives have not opposed the legislation, they have criticised it on grounds of cost. The Liberal Democrats, who could be crucial in a hung parliament situation, oppose the measure and would instead use the £670m budget set aside for its implementation to fund short breaks for carers.
Peers and local authorities have raised concerns about the costs of the legislation, which have been estimated by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services to be as high as £1bn a year.
The government has also put back its proposed start date for implementing the plans from October 2010 to April 2011, following concerns that councils would not be able to put the proposals into practice this year.
Adass welcomed the later start date. President Jenny Owen added: “Adass will continue to be available to work closely with the government on unresolved funding and implementation issues.”