Health secretary Andy Burnham has hit out at “scaremongering” campaigns that have attacked the government’s plans to abolish key disability benefits.
Burnham made clear that the government would scrap both attendance allowance (AA) and disability living allowance (DLA) for all those over 65 as part of its plans to reform the social care funding system.
The government’s care and support green paper in July suggested that the money saved would be used to fund means-tested council care services.
But Burnham – giving evidence to the Commons health committee as part of its inquiry into the future of social care – pledged again that no-one receiving DLA or AA at the time of reform “would receive any less cash support, nor would they lose any control” over how they spent that money.
He said that some “very vulnerable people” had been “frightened” by “scaremongering” campaigns and that a Conservative campaign against scrapping AA and DLA had “misrepresented” government plans.
Burnham again ruled out scrapping DLA for those under the age of 65.
He said he wanted to publish a white paper on social care funding before this year’s general election, and “create unstoppable momentum” for legislation after the election.
He also dismissed criticism of the government’s personal care at home bill, which would offer free personal care at home to disabled people with the highest needs.
Campaigners have warned it could lead to a squeeze on services for those with lower needs.
But Burnham said the bill was “building the vision” laid out in the green paper, and would help “the most vulnerable people, who at the moment face a lottery”.
And he again squashed hopes that the government would opt for funding free personal care for all disabled people from taxation.
He said: “I think that the principle that the individual should make a contribution is the right one and it should not be just funded through general taxation.”
His evidence came as the Alzheimer’s Society called for parties’ election manifestos to address “serious failings in dementia care”, and include pledges not to scrap AA.
Its research found “overwhelming opposition” to scrapping AA and using the money to pay for care services.
A survey of nearly 1,500 carers and people with dementia also found less than a quarter were having all their care needs met.
A separate survey of 150 MPs found four in five believed a long-term solution to funding social care should be a high priority for their party.
7 January 2010