Andy Burnham: social care cuts are ‘dementia tax’

Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary, has hit out at local authority social care budget cuts, describing them as the Government’s “dementia tax”.

Mr Burnham’s said the cuts, which are hitting the number of residential home places available and the provision of home help, were disproportionately affecting “the most vulnerable members of our society”.

He briefly raised his concerns in an interview with the New Statesman magazine, describing the budget tightening measures as “[Andrew] Lansley and [David] Cameron’s dementia tax”.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, he went further: “The most terrible thing is that the most vulnerable members of our society will end up diggin deep into their own pockets to pay for care.

“People will be paying according to how vulnerable they are: for me, that’s the cruellest tax there is.”

He added: “The evidence throughout the country is that councils are tightening their qualifying criteria for care. People who used to qualify are no longer getting it. I think that’s unpalatable.

“I don’t blame the councils, often they are dealing with very difficult financial settlements. But this is the human cost of these savage cuts. Often it’s not seen, because it’s affecting people who don’t have a voice.”

His comments come after The Daily Telegraph revealed that councils have reduced their adult social care budgets by a fifth on average, in an attempt to balance their books in the face of wider Government cuts to local authorities. Some have reduced their budgets by 30 per cent.

This is resulting in fewer care home places and increasing fees, that elderly people or their families have to fund.

Andrew Chidgey, head of policy at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “These cuts could be catastrophic for people with dementia. People with the condition are among the biggest users of social care; they rely on help with everyday tasks such as washing and eating.

“There are half a million people with dementia who already do not receive enough support; these cuts risk worsening the situation.”

However, Paul Burstow, the Care Services Minister, responded: “As usual with Labour they’ve gone for a soundbite over substance.

“We accept that council spending on social care is under pressure-that’s why the coalition government is providing an extra £7.2 billion over the next four years to protect access to services that support vulnerable people.

“It is clear some councils are using their resources more effectively and are investing in prevention and rehabilitation. But it is also the case that others are shortsightedly cutting services. Those councils will have to justify their decision to the communities they serve.”