Our published priorities set attainable but challenging targets for health and social care bodies to increase the support available for older people living in their own homes. We are supporting that with an average 6 per cent. annual increase in real terms in resources for personal social services between 2003 and 2006.
What steps could the Government take for people suffering from dementia and other long-term illnesses who are occupying hospital beds to help them to move back into their own homes rather than into a nursing home, if that is what they wish? There is definitely a demand from elderly people to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. We are getting the message loud and clear from older people that they want to have the choice of staying in their own homes. When people are awaiting discharge, a package of care should be put together that is based on their choices and their needs. The delayed discharge grants that we have made available are for improving services in a person's home. Discharge into their home should be every bit as real a choice as discharge into a nursing home.
If Sir Nigel Crisp said that, he is wrong. Delayed discharge grants have given resources to local councils and local health authorities to put in place a mechanism by which delayed discharges can be eradicated from our hospital system. Any local council that has been doing a reasonable job of planning for this eventuality will make a profit from the delayed discharge grants, because it will receive more in grant than it is having to pay in fines.
I welcome what my hon. Friend has said about extra resources for this purpose. In the past, people's perception has all too often been that they have been forced to remain in their own homes. Will he assure us that people will have real choice, and that it will be based on sound assessments of their needs?
I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. He is right that in the past it was assumed that people would go into nursing homes or residential care. We are getting away from that. It is sad that the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are devising policies to return to a system whereby people are forced into nursing homes instead of being given the choice of care in their own homes.
They will have to pay an increase because we intend to ensure that those who care for old and vulnerable people are of suitable character and reputation. Surely that is something with which the Conservative party would agree. We intend the CRB checks on care workers to be self-funding, but the employers will pay the bills for them.
I noted the reply that the Minister gave my hon. Friend Jeff Ennis on support for people in their own homes. Will he comment on the divide between medical and social care? Strategic regional health authorities have set up a matrix to guide people, because that division causes problems and has an impact on the care of people in their own homes and in nursing homes.
I think that the issue to which my hon. Friend refers—if I am wrong I would welcome a meeting with him afterwards—is the dispute that arose because the ombudsman discovered that certain people were not being properly assessed for NHS continuing care. The Government have acknowledged that there were some failures in some areas. Different criteria were being used and were not being properly applied. We have instructed all the strategic health authorities to come up with consistent criteria, and to review the cases of those who may not have been properly assessed for continuing care. Those people will be fully compensated for any financial losses that they incurred as a result of any decision.