Labour leadership candidate wants National Care Service
LABOUR leadership challenger Andy Burnham is arguing that Wales could link with England to defeat the biggest social challenge of the 21st century – how to pay for the care of older people.
The former Health Secretary, who was in Newport and Cardiff yesterday seeking support for his bid, said: “There is a huge problem over how we pay for the care of older people in the future. I’m proposing a 10% levy on all estates.
“That is a situation that we could bring forward for England and Wales, if the First Minister was so inclined.
“I’ve spoken to [Welsh Health Minister] Edwina Hart about it. I met Edwina and her deputy Gwenda Thomas and spoke in detail about it.
“It would only be if the party here in Wales thought there was merit in exploring a National Care Service for England and Wales – it wouldn’t be something we would impose. But I think there are grounds for England and Wales looking at this jointly.”
Mr Burnham said the 10% scheme – which would involve a levy on the estates of all people who die, up to a potential maximum of £50,000 – was fully costed and had been signed off by the Treasury when he was preparing a White Paper on social care before the election.
“This isn’t pie in the sky,” he said. “I know that a 10% levy could pay for a comprehensive, free at the point of use, National Care Service. And I believe a big idea on that scale could be for Labour in this century – the century of the ageing society – what the NHS was for Labour in the last century.
“It’s a great privilege to be a Labour Health Secretary, and I read Nye Bevan’s speeches a lot when I was Health Secretary, and I did draw inspiration for them when I was thinking about the National Care Service.”
Another of Mr Burnham’s proposals, set out in his manifesto, would involve allowing councils to buy up “problem” homes from private sector landlords, if necessary by compulsory purchase.
He said: “The housing policy is a big idea, but it’s not about spending huge amounts of public money.
“It’s about giving councils borrowing permission so they can borrow money on the market to buy problem properties and then gain rental income from them.
“In doing so we believe we can significantly bring down the housing benefit bill by not having absent landlords raking in huge cheques from the public purse, charging high rent, paying no attention to the quality of the property or the behaviour of those within it. This is a plan that is thought through and workable.”
No AM or MP from Wales has endorsed Mr Burnham for the leadership, and neither has any union, although he said he had lots of grassroots support.
Overall, he thought he was in a strong third position in the contest, behind the Miliband brothers, with support growing.
“Harriet Harman was in a similar position in 2007 [when standing for the party’s deputy leadership],” he said. “Look what happened.”
A spokesman for Carwyn Jones confirmed Mr Burnham had discussed proposed changes to the funding of elderly people’s care arrangements with Mrs Hart when he was Health Secretary. The proposals had been overtaken by the general election and any new ideas would have to be approved by the Labour Party before they became official policy.
* The full text of Andy Burnham’s manifesto – Aspirational Socialism – can be read on his campaign website, www.andy4leader.com