I was heartened by some of what I read in the motion tabled by the Opposition. Welcoming the measures laid out in the care and support White Paper was a good start to a process that will be immensely easier with genuine co-operation and communication. However, the speeches from the Opposition Front Bench were partisan and contained no acknowledgement that for 13 years they did nothing. Liz Kendall seems to have amnesia. Cheap party political squabbling is not attractive. I remind Ms Abbott that she was very political by trying not to be political. I remind her also that 40,000 people a year had to sell their homes to pay for their care. It reflects badly on her and on the House and does nothing to improve the lives of service users, carers and staff. A White Paper seven days before the general election announcement counts for little.
Care has to be funded in a way that is fair on service users and fair on the taxpayer. We agree with Dilnot that financial protection through capped costs and an extended means test are the right basis for any new funding system. Given the extra public spending that will be involved, we need to consider that alongside other priorities. An issue that has been raised throughout the debate is the funding for the means-tested system. The right place—the responsible place—to consider that is in the course of the spending review and I do not intend to pre-empt that tonight. I draw hon. Members’ attention to the progress report. Many of the answers to the questions that they raise are included in that. The hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington would do well to refer to figure 4 in the report.
We have allocated an extra £7.2 billion to improve care and support as part of the spending review. That comes as part of what we know is a tough settlement for local government. If spent well, it will go far and will help local authorities maintain people’s access to care and support. The recent report from Demos and Scope shows that this can be done, and that reduced funding does not have to mean a reduced service. By putting more into reablement services that help people regain their independence, for example, or by supporting people to live in the community instead of in expensive residential care, local authorities can provide the best standards of care while saving money.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State mentioned the £32.5 million for better online services and traditional communication methods to help people see what services are available, whether their care is paid for by them or by the state. Likewise, there is an additional £200 million for specialised housing. That additional money more than pays for the White Paper proposals leading up to the comprehensive spending review. As my hon. Friend Dr Poulter said, the issue was ducked repeatedly by the previous Government in far more favourable economic times. He also drew attention to the absurd distinctions between health and social care and the need for integration.
My hon. Friend Fiona Bruce spoke from the heart about the needs of carers, the £400 million we have provided for carers’ breaks and the end of permanent billing. My hon. Friend John Pugh spoke of the contribution older people make and how to stop the fit becoming frail. My hon. Friend Margot James reiterated the ADASS figures and the desire for people to stay in their own homes. My hon. Friend Sarah Newton spoke with passion and knowledge of the unity and commonality of purpose we need and the divisive nature of the Opposition’s motion. My hon. Friend Paul Maynard pointed out the huge need to address the needs of people with disabilities.
These are ambitious plans. As well as setting out a comprehensive package of reform for the longer term, the White Paper announces changes that will make a difference immediately: a national eligibility threshold; proper and meaningful portability; duties to share information to ensure that people can move without losing their care; a focus on housing; provider quality profiles so that people can finally have clear information on the quality of care providers; mandatory adult safeguarding boards; and a requirement to assess carers’ needs and actually meet them—much neglected help and support. It also announces a code of conduct and minimum training standards for care workers so that people know that their care is underpinned by high standards of training and ethics. We will train more care workers, with 50,000 more apprenticeships by 2017, double the current number.