Caring for the Elderly

Part of Opposition Day — [16th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:25 pm on 15th July 2009.

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Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Shadow Minister, Work & Pensions 4:25 pm, 15th July 2009

My hon. Friend is right; it is a bit of a mystery.

Age Concern and Help the Aged have commented on the Green Paper, saying:

"With time now short the Government must set out a clear timetable to move from debating options to agreeing and implementing specific proposals."

I entirely agree.

I want to raise a specific issue to do with benefits for people with disabilities. The Green Paper makes various suggestions about using non-means-tested disability benefits-such as disability living allowance and attendance allowance-to help fund the means-tested social care system. That would represent a huge shift in the principles that underlie the system of disability benefits, and would be of great concern to many disability organisations and disabled people. If media reports are to be believed, the Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions and for Health were arguing about the point right up to the last moment before the Green Paper was published. It seems that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions lost that battle in Government, but that will not be good news for disabled people.

The Green Paper could not be clearer: there is no guarantee of extra Government funding to meet the yawning gap in provision. People may well end up being forced into a compulsory insurance scheme and, at the end of it, a nationalised system of care. Yet still the relentless destruction of hard-won family assets goes on, the lottery of care continues, and older people and their families remain fearful about what will happen to them when they are frail and needy. What older people need in these difficult times is more help from the Government, not less. Dot Gibson, the general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said:

"The fact that it has taken 12 years for the Government to come up with any proposals-with the prospect of up to another five years before any legislation-is a terrible betrayal of Britain's pensioners and their families."

I shall take this opportunity to explode some of the myths that Labour have been peddling about Conservative policies, especially in connection with the Norwich by-election. Labour is saying that we would cut pension credit, but that is dishonest as we have never said that we would cut either pensions or pension credit. Labour is saying that we would scrap free TV licences, but that is dishonest as we have no plans to do so.