Liberal Democrat party conference: Members reject social care spending plea


newslatestLiberal Democrats have rejected calls for their party to pledge rises in social care spending that match those on the NHS, if it wins the next election.

During a debate at this week’s Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow on the “core manifesto” for the general election, party members narrowly defeated an amendment that demanded a “fully integrated NHS and social care budget which will rise by at least inflation”.

Instead, they welcomed proposals in a policy paper, A Stronger Economy and a Fairer Society, which “guarantee” that the NHS budget – but not spending on social care – rises by at least inflation.

Paul Burstow, the former care services minister, and now one of the party’s strongest voices on social care, had backed the amendment.

He said: “Health and social care are two sides of the same coin. If you undermine one, you undermine the other.

“We will not get the full value of that additional value of investment into the NHS if we do not ensure our social care system is properly supported as well.”

He pointed out that many people were no longer able to access social care support, because of the funding crisis facing local authorities.

And he warned that if spending on social care did not increase, “the vulnerable will be shut out of essential social care support” and it would “shunt more people into the NHS”.

Burstow said: “This is a modest measure but an important signal that healthcare and social care need to be looked at together.”

And Hertfordshire county councillor Chris White, a deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group at the Local Government Association, said the funding gap facing local government would reach £12.4 billion a year by 2020.

He said: “The crisis facing local government… if not handled will reduce local government to just social care, and all other services will have to disappear to fund social care.”

8 October 2014