Liberal Democrat conference: Ministers ‘know social care funding risks’


Government ministers “know what will happen” if they fail to fund social care adequately and end up “shunting” costs onto the health service, the Liberal Democrat care services minister has admitted.

Paul Burstow told a fringe meeting at his party’s conference in Liverpool that he and fellow ministers were aware of the need to avoid under-funding social care.

He said: “That is the conversation we are having at the moment. We know what will happen if we do not take certain action. We know everyone else knows that.

“We are working hard to make sure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected most.”

He said he and fellow ministers at the Department of Health were in intense discussions with other government ministers and the Treasury about social care.

And he said party members would have the chance on 20 October – when the government publishes the results of its spending review – to “see if that pledge is redeemed sufficiently”.

Burstow said that he saw the personalisation of services as “a key way in which people really do have control over their lives and services”.

He said: “There is a very strong real case for doing it. It doesn’t cost more, it uses the resources better. People feel they are getting a better service because they are in control of it.”

He also stressed the vital importance of user-led organisations in providing support for disabled people.

But asked by Lisa Frith, of Merseyside People First – which faces uncertainty over its city council funding after next spring – what he could do to “make sure groups like ours get funding”, he said he could not make promises “from the centre”.

But he said he could help to “create a climate” in which local authorities “understand that they are the guardians of the tax-payers’ money and are not there for their own self-interest”.

Burstow’s comments came as a survey of 56 local authorities by the older people’s charity Counsel and Care found more than half said they would be cutting budgets in social care or reducing the range of services available.

Six councils said they were considering increasing charges for home care, with another four known to be already consulting on increasing charges.

21 September 2010