As the Free Personal Care at Home Bill creeps its way through Parliament, the voices against it get louder – but yet they still seem not to be heard.
Lord Warner, a former health minister, attempted to get the Bill delayed in a motion to the House of Lords, but lost the vote yesterday.
He said that the government should wait to implement the Bill until it knows what it is doing with the wider review of care funding. That should be in the much-vaunted White Paper, although time is running out for it to be published this side of the election.
Like many others in the sector, Lord Warner also believes the government has got its sums wrong with the policy. For example, ADASS reckons that it could cost local government £500 million, double what is estimated – and pushing the total cost close to £1 billion. If they are right, it could impact on other care services, especially those for people with lower levels of need, as local authorities scramble to find the funds.
The government dismisses these criticisms, saying that the scheme has been properly costed.
Moreover, the Bill still doesn’t address some of the major issues in care and care funding. The plan does not mean that more people will be able to access care services, just that more – that all-important middle class, say cynics with an eye on the election – will be able to access them for free.
Also, it doesn’t address people having to sell their homes to pay for residential care; while they may get free care at home, as soon as they move out they will have to pay.
Of course, as I mentioned earlier, this is only part of the government’s plan for adult social care funding. However, when their full plans are revealed – and those of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats – I suspect that how they will be funded will be the primary talking point.
In an ideal world, the details of how people will be cared for should be paramount. While it will still be very important – obviously – I suspect that money (or lack of it) will talk the loudest when it comes to choosing new policies. Whether that means we get the best solution for service users is another matter.