The Care Bill – an ambitious, Lib Dem-driven attempt to overhaul the creaking care system – receives its Second Reading in the Lords today. Lord Alderdice says it is no wonder it has received near-universal praise
Today in the House of Lords we will be debating the Care Bill at Second Reading – the start of its legislative journey to becoming law. The title of the Bill may be prosaic. But it masks the fact that this is the most ambitious and holistic attempt to reform the over-complex and labyrinthine care system in a generation.
Nobody, inside or outside the system, seriously argues that it isn’t in need of an overhaul. Those who work within it can be perplexed by it so it is little wonder that those in need of it, or those who look after them, are often overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of what has allowed to have been built up. Worse is that these people are the most vulnerable in society – the elderly and disabled. It is by concentrating on what is best for these people, and not for the system, that this Bill has been drawn up. It is little wonder that it has achieved near-universal praise.
We should all be very proud that this Bill is the result of Liberal Democrats in government. For one reason or another, successive Conservative and Labour governments backed away from reforming a care system which had clearly stopped delivering for the people who needed it. But Paul Burstow grasped the mettle and, following a report from the Law Commission, took the Department of Health and the care sector with him. Paul’s successor Norman Lamb pursued it with no less energy, and indeed gave it an even more razor-sharp focus on integrating health and care services.
This Bill will do much to tackle the serious failings laid out in the Francis Report on the horrendous failures seen in Mid Staffordshire. Ratings for hospitals and care homes will help to ensure failings will no longer be allowed to fester unchecked, while a Chief Inspector of Hospitals with real teeth will be able to take action if and when they are found.
We are not pretending this is a perfect Bill. As we clear up the economic mess, the money is not there to, as many would like, make social care free for all. But it will put a cap on care costs, above which local authorities will make up the shortfall and ending the situation where people were forced to sell their homes to pay for care. At the moment anyone with assests of £23,250 is responsible for paying their way. This Bill will see that rise to £118,000.
Governments of both other hues have ducked this issue for decades. Lib Dems in government have finally taken hold of it and are delivering real change. That is something we can all be proud of.
Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.