PM Accused over Care Reforms as Funding Decision Delayed; 'Death Tax' Not Ruled out, Says Burnham

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), March 31, 2010 | Go to article overview

PM Accused over Care Reforms as Funding Decision Delayed; 'Death Tax' Not Ruled out, Says Burnham


Byline: Western Mail reporter

GORDON BROWN was accused last night of kicking radical social care reforms "into the long grass" as the general election looms.

Campaigners and political opponents hit out after the Government admitted it was putting off key decisions on how a NHS-style National Care Service will be funded.

The news came in a longawaited White Paper that has been the subject of a major political row between the main parties.

Although yesterday's White Paper related to England, it will inevitably have a major impact on Wales in time because much social care legislation is on an England and Wales basis.

UK Health Secretary Andy Burnham made clear yesterday that a compulsory charge on estates - dubbed a "death tax" by Tories - was still on the table.

But he conceded that concern over the public reaction had been a factor in his decision to set up a cross-party Royal Commission to examine ways of funding the National Care Service, rather than act straight away.

The commission will not be appointed until after the general Welsh Options for how pay for social developed. The consultation on proposals are After the White published in yesterday, Gwenda Assembly Minister for Social "Given that much care legislation and Wales basis, essential that we with the UK establish a new for care that is sustainable in election, and the new system is not expected to become operational until "after 2015", according to the White Paper.

In the interim, the document proposes making residential care free after the second year by 2014, on top of legislation being debated at present to exempt the most needy from charges. "We have consultation on and I will be of that consultation "It will be that the results consultation, and from Welsh considered during consultation on "The White staged approach moving eventually comprehensive through inheritance "The funding considered by a commission, build cross-party the best approach would not conclude At a briefing for journalists in Westminster, Mr Burnham denied that he was kicking the issue "into the long grass" and insisted the Government was undertaking "massive reform".

"Rome wasn't built in a day," he said. "If I'm being honest, there is the need for a longer debate with people on how to contribute."

He accused critics of not "respecting" the historic scale of the changes being proposed to end the postcode lottery in care provision. "The fact is that this is a big reform that is complicated," Mr Burnham added. "All options will be within scope when [the commission] make their deliberations, although we will not introduce any change within the next Parliament."

The proposals from the commission will be put to voters at a general election before being enacted, he said.

The White Paper states that the National Care Service should be "comprehensive" and universal, contributions compulsory, and access will be "based on need rather than the ability to pay".

In the foreword to the document, the Prime Minister wrote: "This is a new chapter in the story of our welfare state: a chance to change the way care and support are delivered. …

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