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This Government continue to deliver a fair settlement to every part of the country. In particular, we have introduced the £5.3 billion better care fund, which includes locally agreed plans for protecting adult social care services.
Does the Minister not recognise that the better care fund is not new money, but is money taken from existing budgets? There are more people with more needs. Does the Minister not recognise that providing small amounts of low-level services to carers, who are providing for a lot of those needs, will ensure that most people can continue to be cared for at home, whereas now many people are facing difficulties in caring, and we will see elderly and disabled people living without dignity?
The hon. Lady makes a perfectly fair point. Many Members in all parts of the House recognise the vital work that carers do in supporting their loved ones, and I have been particularly struck by children who care for brothers and sisters or parents. I certainly agree with the hon. Lady on that. In terms of resources, in the spending review the Government put an extra £470 million into supporting the Care Act 2014, and of course in the autumn statement a further £2 billion was announced to support the national health service.
The accident and emergency department at Queen Alexandra hospital in Portsmouth continues to struggle to meet its four-hour waiting time targets. Does my hon. Friend agree that, as part of the solution to this problem, the local NHS and the surrounding providers of care, the local authorities, must work together much more closely, particularly on the subject of discharge?
I absolutely agree that it is essential that local authorities and the health service work together to provide a seamless service for patients as they leave hospital and come into the care of local authorities. That is precisely what the better care fund is about. I am advised that the last round table in my hon. Friend’s district took place on Friday.
Is the Minister aware that, despite having cuts to its spending power of about twice the national average, Birmingham is increasing its child protection budget? To ensure that other forms of social care do not suffer as a result and to meet Birmingham’s long-term needs, some additional support is required. Will the Minister agree, perhaps in conjunction with colleagues from the Department for Education, to meet a delegation from Birmingham to look at what is possible?
Birmingham city council has obviously had considerable difficulties recently, which the Department has been heavily involved in trying to solve, but if the hon. Gentleman has specific proposals to put forward and would like to write to me or the Secretary of State, I am sure that we will look at them very carefully.
I understand that the Chancellor announced that the inheritance tax threshold will be frozen until 2017 and the money raised thereby will be put into social care. Is that part of the money my hon. Friend just announced, or is that additional?
That would be additional money, I believe, but just under £2 billion in additional support was announced for the national health service in the autumn statement, money that I am sure will be well received and well spent.