Conference ‘helps move towards consensus on care’


Disability organisations have welcomed progress made towards a consensus on the future of adult social care, following a government conference attended by more than 30 voluntary organisations.

The conference was called by health secretary Andy Burnham after heated public discussions over government plans for funding adult social care.

Disability charities that attended the event said they believed the talks had made progress towards achieving consensus, although key concerns remained.

The Department of Health also described the conference as “helpful” and “broad ranging” and said it had “helped to build consensus towards a white paper”, due this spring.

Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living, the one disabled people’s organisation that attended, said she was “surprised” at the degree of consensus.

There was general agreement among charities that the best way to fund adult social care was through general taxation, she said.

But if the government continues to rule this out, most backed the “comprehensive” funding model, in which everyone would receive free care when needed, with those who could afford it contributing to a state insurance scheme after retirement age.

Bott welcomed the conference’s discussions about support for disabled adults of working age – following the recent emphasis on older people – with the government making clear that, under the comprehensive model, this would be funded through general taxation.

Guy Parckar, policy and campaigns manager for Leonard Cheshire Disability, also welcomed this pledge but warned of question-marks over eligibility and potential rationing.

Bott said grave concerns remained among delegates over possible plans to abolish disability living allowance (DLA) and attendance allowance (AA) for those over 65 and roll the savings into social services budgets.

Parckar said he was pleased that Burnham and care services minister Phil Hope were there to hear the “strength of opinion about what it is that makes AA and DLA so important”.

Bott welcomed the progress in agreeing on “some good general principles among really quite a wide ranging group of people”, while Parckar said there had been “a surprising amount of consensus among the different groups” but that the detail in the government’s forthcoming white paper would be “critical”.

Mark Goldring, Mencap’s chief executive, also described the conference as “positive and constructive” and said he was pleased at the emphasis placed on disabled people of working age as well as older people.

23 February 2010

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