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I agree with my right hon. Friend: it is unbelievable. Conservative councils up and down the country are cutting day centres and nursing homes for older people-cutting social services budgets-and then the Conservatives make that kind of opportunistic statement that comes from a deliberate misreading of the situation in order to give fuel to their candidates in constituencies around the country. Whatever the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire says today, the reality is what my right hon. Friend has just read out, and it is now on the record for all to see.
It is completely wrong to say that people will lose out under a new system. This is not about using benefits to support the existing system. We want to create a new care and support system that goes beyond that and is fit for the 21st century. We accept that that means we need to carry people with this reform. We also need to protect people in the interim. We have therefore categorically ruled out using disability living allowance for the under-65s. No other decisions about benefit reform have yet been taken. However, we have been absolutely clear that if disability benefits are reformed as part of delivering the national care service, those currently receiving benefit will not lose out financially. To put it simply, there would be no cash losers from this reform. That will remain the case for life. Existing benefits recipients will keep the cash and keep the control-it could not be clearer.
People like disability benefits because they provide a universal entitlement, they provide a cash budget that can be spent on the services that people want, and they support lower-level needs that help people to stay well for longer. Those three principles will all be important features of the new care and support system that we seek to introduce.
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