Care for elderly in own homes to form heart of Queen’s Speech
Elderly people will receive free care to help them to stay in their own homes under plans which will form the heart of the Government’s programme ahead of the election.
Up to 280,000 people with the most pressing care needs, including disabled adults as well as the elderly, are to be given help from October to carry out essential basic tasks such as dressing, getting out of bed and making breakfast.
Another 130,000 patients will receive support after they are discharged from hospital, with measures such as the installation of “grab bars” in baths and alarms to alert an ambulance if they collapse, allowing them to go home earlier.
The care will be free to all regardless of income, and designed to spare the elderly the ordeal of losing their home in order to pay for nursing help or residential care as they become frailer.
It will be jointly funded by the Departments of Health and Communities, with the £670 million price tag being met by cuts in Whitehall advertising, communications, management consultants and administration.
The proposals will be contained in a Personal Care at Home Bill, to be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech, the Government’s legislative programme for the coming year, at the opening of Parliament later today.
They are designed as an “interim measure” ahead of plans for a National Care Service, a new authority designed to run alongside the National Health Service providing comprehensive nursing support for the elderly and disabled, which will be set out in a White Paper in the New Year.
Questions will be raised, however, about the Government’s ability to deliver on their plans given that a general election will be held before the interim measures are due to come into force.
The Conservatives have promised their own social care package, a scheme by which people could pay a one-off fee of £8,000 at the age of 65 to enlist into, guaranteeing them residential care when they needed it.
In his speech to his party’s conference in September, Gordon Brown announced that in future under Labour, care for elderly people would not be a “postcode lottery” or limited to those who could afford to pay.
He said: “In our times there is a new challenge that no generation has ever had to face before.
“We have an ageing society and new rightful demands for dignity and for support in old age.
“And so we need social care for our elderly which is not subject to a post code lottery, but available to all – to the hard working majority, and not just the few who can pay.
“And so we will say in Labour’s manifesto that social care for all is not a distant dream, that to provide security for pensioners for generations to come – we will bring together the National Health Service and local care provision into a new National Care Service.
“And we can start straight away. Today more and more people see their parents and grandparents suffering from conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia, and they see their dignity diminish.
“For too many families the challenge of coping with the heartbreak is made worse by the costs of getting support.
“The people who face the greatest burden are too often those on middle incomes, who have savings which will last a year or two, but then they will see their savings slip away.
“And the best starting point for our National Care Service is to help the elderly get the amenities to do what they most want: to receive care and to stay in their homes as long as possible.
“And so for those with the highest needs we will now offer in their own homes free personal care.
“It’s a change that makes saving worthwhile, makes every family in this country more secure and is a much needed reassurance for the elderly and their children.”
At the time, ministers promised that the new support schemes would help up to 300,000 pensioners, but this has been extended to 400,000 following a public consultation by Phil Hope, the Care Services Minister.
The proposals are also designed to take some of the strain off the NHS and council budgets by allowing the elderly and disabled to remain out of residential care and in their own homes for longer, and patients to leave hospital sooner.
Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, is said to be keen to prevent health problems escalating to a point where they become distressing for the individual, and expensive for the taxpayer to treat.
The Government is also said to want to end the strain on middle class families forced to spend life savings and inheritance on caring for older parents who are living longer than ever before.
A source said: “We know this is a really big problem for people and it has taken too long for all parties to get to grips with it.
“But the Tories really have nothing to offer on this, which means that social care will form one of the key battlegrounds during the general election campaign.”