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Disability Benefits for the Elderly

Part of Opposition Day — [1st allotted day] – in the House of Commons at 4:06 pm on 8th December 2009.

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Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham The Secretary of State for Health 4:06 pm, 8th December 2009

My hon. Friend is quite right, and that is why direct payments and personal budgets will lie at the heart of any proposed national care service. We want that level of control at the heart of any reformed system. She is also right to raise the issue of quality. Although there are good examples around the country, and many councils are doing their best, the system is stretched and-if we are honest-it is not systematically providing quality to people across the country. Many people who work in social care earn at or close to the national minimum wage, so in some parts of the country it is difficult to recruit care staff to provide the services that are so desperately needed. For all those reasons, and to put quality at the heart of the work force, we need to pick up the work on strategy in social care being done by the Minister of State, my hon. Friend Phil Hope, who has responsibility for care services. If we can do what we did successfully for the NHS work force, we shall develop a clear career structure, putting money behind training and development to ensure we have a high-quality, motivated work force. For all those reasons, the debate is important and complicated. It cannot be reduced to the level the Conservative party seeks-it is more complicated than that.

We have had a detailed debate on our Green Paper and the consultation has attracted a huge number of replies. Overwhelmingly, people support the principle that the system has to be reformed. The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire did not say that, but it is what people are telling us. Of course there are difficult views about the nature and shape the reform should take, but people are agreed that worst of all would be to leave the system as it is, with more and more people's needs unmet as we go into a future with an ageing population.

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