Committee (6th Day)

Part of Care Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 16th July 2013.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Barker Baroness Barker Liberal Democrat 6:15 pm, 16th July 2013

My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group. On these Benches one of our great hopes for a national system of criteria is that it will lessen the frequency with which people in different parts of the country are wrongly charged for services that should be free. It has always been the case that older people, and carers in particular, can find themselves being charged by a local authority for things that are in fact free under various different pieces of legislation, notably the Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc) Act.

All of these amendments have things to commend them. I will start in reverse order, with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey. He has hit on something that is a bigger issue than perhaps has been realised yet. When we were debating the pension credit legislation in this House, the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, talked about the fact that she had taken over the affairs of an elderly relative. She was probably the one person in the whole of Britain who at that time knew exactly what the regulations were. Yet it was only after the person died that she discovered that they had a little account about which she had known absolutely nothing. Why? Because many older people put money aside to cover their funeral. That is the truth. It is something that is very important to them. They probably do not tell people about it. I am sure that they also have other reasons, but that is a very common one. It is not uncommon for relatives to discover such accounts, although they are not vast amounts of money. The noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, is absolutely right that if, in a circumstance like that, somebody was deemed to have transgressed the law, it would be unfair and unjust.

I also add support to Amendment 89BA, an amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Low of Dalston. I was lucky to serve with the noble Lord, Lord Best, last year on an inquiry into the availability of aids and adaptations for older people who need help to remain in their own homes. We discovered extraordinary variations across the country and heartrending stories of elderly ladies having to carry their very elderly husbands up and down flights of stairs on their back, in a way that was simply unsustainable.

I commend to noble Lords the policy that was adopted by the local authority in Hull. It occurred to officials one day that, truth be known, nobody really wants a ramp outside their door. So they abandoned their assessment procedure; they stopped sending social workers out to discover whether or not this was necessary. They saved a lot of money that went instead into direct services. That is a commendable approach, and one that probably saved the city of Hull a lot of money in immediate and direct costs. Would that that spirit could go into the implementation of this Bill.