Committee (6th Day)

Part of Care Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 16th July 2013.

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Photo of Lord Sharkey Lord Sharkey Liberal Democrat 7:00 pm, 16th July 2013

My Lords, my Amendment 89E covers the same ground as, and is very similar to, Amendment 90 in this group standing in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross. I entirely agree with the spirit of the noble Baroness’s amendment except that I do not think that it goes quite far enough.

The question of public awareness of the terms of the cap on care costs is obviously critically important. However, as I said at Second Reading, the Dilnot report views communication to be central to the success of the entire scheme. Dilnot makes two recommendations in this area. The first is:

“To encourage people to plan ahead for their later life we recommend that the Government invests in an awareness campaign”.

The second is:

“The Government should develop a major new information and advice strategy to help when care needs arise”.

In his reply at Second Reading, the Minister said:

“Legislation is not required for that but the Government agree on the need to raise public awareness. The Government will adopt a strategic approach to maximising the public’s understanding of the new care and support system, and that is a crucial part of our plans to implement Dilnot”.—[Official Report, 21/5/13; col. 827.]

I was very glad to hear that the Government plan to maximise public understanding of the new system. Maximisation is a strong word and this is a very strong and very welcome commitment. I agree that legislation is not necessary in order to implement an awareness campaign. However, while legislation may not be necessary, I think that in this case it is highly desirable and probably even essential.

I believe that it is highly desirable for four reasons. First, it is a binding and unambiguous commitment; secondly, it allows for a national campaign, so that there should be no unsatisfactory variations in achievement by local authority area; thirdly, only central government is really likely to spend the amount of money needed to truly maximise public understanding; and, fourthly, it is the only efficient way of holding someone to account for failure to achieve maximisation. As I mentioned, where I slightly part company with the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, is over whether her amendment goes far enough.

I have had a great deal of experience of devising and running very large-scale information and advice campaigns, some of the largest being for government departments, and I know that successfully providing information and advice is never enough. It is critical that this information is understood but it is also critical that there is awareness and understanding of the implications of that information and advice. Awareness of facts is not in itself worth very much if we do not understand what those facts mean or what their implications are for you. That is why my amendment is slightly stronger than Amendment 90. It imposes a duty on the Secretary of State not only to run a national awareness campaign but to ensure that there is a high level of public awareness and understanding of the terms and implications of the cap on the cost of care.

My Amendment 104ZD in this group takes this a little further. The Government agree with Dilnot’s view that communication is fundamental to the success of the whole enterprise. If communication fails, so will the new system. That is why, I assume, the Government have made the very strong promise to maximise awareness. However, if it is so important to maximise awareness, surely we need some clear indication of the progress being made in maximising this awareness and some indicators to show that, when awareness is in fact maximised, that is where it stays. As it stands, Clause 66 proposes a five-yearly review by the Secretary of State of the funding provisions, and Clause 80 provides for reviews and performance assessments related to care standards. However, there is no provision in the Bill for a review of progress towards the Government’s goal of maximising awareness of the Dilnot terms and their implications.

My Amendment 104ZD would insert a requirement for the Secretary of State to report annually to Parliament on progress in achieving this maximisation nationally and by local authority area, starting 12 months after Section 15 comes into force. This is not an onerous requirement; it is the kind of thing that commercial organisations do entirely as a matter of routine. However, even if it were onerous, it would still be the right thing to do. It is vital that we know how we are doing in maximising awareness and understanding, and the amendment enables us to do that. I hope that the Minister will be able to give sympathetic consideration to this amendment and to Amendment 89E. I beg to move.