The Liberal Democrats have promised to introduce free personal care for all adults if they win power at the next general election, although there are question-marks over key details of their pledge.
Party members this week approved a £5 billion-a-year plan to offer free personal care, which a party spokesperson said would cover “everybody” and not just older people.
The party also claims (PDF) that the net cost of the policy – to be introduced “throughout the UK” – would be only £3 billion a year because it would cut NHS costs by £2 billion a year.
The pledge appears to cover support with nursing care, getting dressed, washing, bathing, and at mealtimes, but not other support such as housework, shopping, laundry and engaging with the local community.
It is not clear whether there would be any limit to the free personal care for those supported to live in their own homes, and it is likely that it would apply only to those assessed as having substantial and critical needs under the Care Act, although the party declined to clarify these details this week.
The Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey (pictured) said the plans would mean “everyone can live independently and with dignity”.
But there were no further details in the conference speech made by the party’s health and social care spokesperson, Daisy Cooper.
And Davey’s conference speech also failed to offer any details about the free personal care promise.
He spoke instead of “rescuing our NHS and care system”, of “better social care, with many more care professionals, better paid” and “more support for family carers”.
Although the party declined to explain this week why it apparently did not intend to extend the policy to cover all council-funded care and support, it still puts the Liberal Democrats ahead of the Conservatives and Labour on dealing with the care charging crisis.
Only last week, Labour was accused of caving in to “powerful vested interests” after failing to include any reference to scrapping care charges in documents that will form the basis of the party’s next general election manifesto.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives have failed to take action to deal with a charging crisis that has left tens of thousands of disabled people every year facing debt collection action by their local authorities over unpaid care charges.
Successive Conservative governments have repeatedly promised – and then failed – to solve the social care crisis.
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