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By Debbie le Quesne

The White Paper – dodging the real issue

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Wednesday is D-Day for the White Paper on social care reform and already the storm clouds are gathering over its alleged proposals.

Charities and health organisations have reacted angrily to the breakdown of cross-party talks on the future of social care for the elderly as ministers announce key decisions on how to fund reform would be postponed until next year’s spending review.

Am I surprised? No, not really.

Along with the paper will be a draft social care Bill. But, according to reports out over the weekend, most attention will focus on a separate progress report – not endorsed by the Labour party – that will make clear that funding for the changes has yet to be agreed.

According to The Guardian newspaper, “The Treasury denied claims, circulating within the coalition, that George Osborne had blocked changes that would cost at least £1.7bn a year.”

In 2011 a review chaired by economist Andrew Dilnot recommended big changes to adult social care funding in England. These included placing a cap of £35,000 on what people should pay towards home visits or care home costs before they get help from the state.

“In England, council-funded home help and care home places for the elderly and adults with disabilities are currently offered only to those with assets of less than £23,250. The Dilnot report said the threshold for assets should rise to £100,000 and a £35,000 cap would be fair,” the newspaper adds.

According to what I’ve read, estimates for the reforms add an additional £1.7bn a year, rising to £3bn as numbers of elderly grow.

Currently, some £14bn a year is spent by councils on social care.

A Treasury spokesman denies the funding issue had been blocked. “It is completely untrue that we have blocked anything. We have not even been in the talks,” The Guardian reports.

Age UK are demanding a timescale on the decision-making process regarding the funds issue and Andrew Chidgey, director of external affairs at the Alzheimer’s Society, says: “If there is no solution to the funding problem on Wednesday, it will be a catastrophic failure of leadership across the spectrum. It will be a betrayal of older people in this country.”

Mark Ellerby, managing director of Bupa Care Services was quoted as saying: “There have been four green and white papers over the last 15 years, none of which have led to any substantial reform – this week’s White Paper must break that pattern.”

I was particularly interested in Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham’s response when he was reported as saying: “The government’s talk of agreeing to a cap on costs is meaningless without a plan to deliver it.”

I have said many times we are not a political organisation and are happy to work across parties to enhance the quality of care our members deliver. But there is more than a ring of truth in this MP’s comment.

 

If the talks on this sticky issue have stalled, it’s not up to us to apportion blame. It is, however, our moral duty to continue to lobby loud and long for a sensible outcome.

 

I was hoping for more, but the preambles in some media circles suggest we’re going to get a 30-second sparkler rather than a fireworks display.

 

But perhaps Simon Gillespie, who chairs the Care & Support Alliance, knows something more.

He has welcomed the commitment to a cap on costs in England and has been reported as saying there remained “some big issues” of under-funding to resolve.

He did, however, tell Radio 4’s Today programme: that there were indications of a way ahead.

Here’s his radio quote: “If it is genuinely the case that those talks have stalled then that will be very, very disappointing . .  . All I can say is that is remarkable disappointing if it is the case that we have not been able to get a political consensus to this long-term and widespread issue.

“We hope that if a White Paper is published on Wednesday then it will come up with some sensible approach to that, and (here’s the nugget) all the indications are it will.”

 Perhaps there is hope, but I’m not tempted to gamble on a good result just yet as the odds seems decidedly stacked against a proper way forward.

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Written by debbielq

July 9, 2012 at 7:15 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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