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Social Care Reform

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 24th November 2009.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 2:30 pm, 24th November 2009

When he plans to publish the Government's response to their consultation on the reform of social care.

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Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham The Secretary of State for Health

The consultation closed on 13 November. More than 28,000 responses have been received and 37 events held in all parts of the country. The Government's response to the consultation will be published in the new year.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I am grateful for that reply. The Secretary of State will know that all the options being consulted on, except for the one whereby everyone would pay for themselves, assume that the Government would take attendance allowance and disability living allowance from the over-65s and put them into a social care system, which would take away individual control. That move is opposed by every single organisation representing disabled people. When he publishes those consultation responses, will he listen to them and cancel that aspect of his social care plan?

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Right at the start of Blair's term as PM, Labour were talking about taking DLA and AA from all disabled people to pay that into a Social care system. So I don't think we are wrong to press them on this issue now. Of course the impact of such a loss of direct income would be far from an "improvement". It was this issue that caused the...

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Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham The Secretary of State for Health

The hon. Gentleman either has not read the Green Paper or has misunderstood it. The Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend Phil Hope, who has responsibility for care services, has said that the principle of individual budgets, introduced by this Government, would be the cornerstone of any national care service. That control over purchasing care would be replicated in and be at the heart of any new system.

This is an important debate which is at the forefront of many older and disabled people's minds. The unpleasant campaign that the Conservative party launched last week will frighten vulnerable people about their benefits with misleading claims about what will happen to them. I find it despicable.

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Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Chair, Parliamentary Labour Party

Does my right hon. Friend agree that when we are talking about people who are disadvantaged and vulnerable, and who have great fears about their future, playing party politics is disgraceful?

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Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham The Secretary of State for Health

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. It is utterly disgraceful. There were claims made last week that benefits would be taken away from elderly and disabled people and that some could lose "up to £60" a week. I do not know how the shadow Health Secretary can justify those claims when he knows them to be untrue. We have said clearly that in any new system people would be offered an equivalent level of support. The whole aim of this reform is to provide more support to vulnerable people, not less. It is because the Conservatives have such a threadbare response to these serious issues that they resort to scaremongering and frankly despicable tactics.

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Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Secretary of State for Health

Responding to the Green Paper, Age Concern said:

"We oppose funding the National Care Service from Attendance Allowance".

I agree with Age Concern. The Secretary of State seems to have been thrown into a panic by this subject. Why does he not simply get up now and say that the Government will reject any of the options in the Green Paper that depend on scrapping attendance allowance or disability living allowance for the over-65s?

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Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham The Secretary of State for Health

I will get up and say what I have just said-that every person will get an equivalent level of support, and I have made that clear. The hon. Gentleman went to a press conference last week at which he suggested that money would be taken from those people. That destabilises, upsets and causes anxiety in some of the most vulnerable people in society, and for whose purposes? It is for the purposes of the Conservative party's election campaign. I find it beneath contempt, and we would do those people a greater service by having a proper debate on the issues.

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