Government plans to cap care for the elderly at £72,000 are nothing short of a “care con”, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said today.
Mr Burnham criticised the coalition’s Care Bill, which he said was “not equal to the scale and the urgency of the care crisis”, as he warned that England faced a future shortage of carers.
Speaking during the Second Reading of the Bill, he said: “This Bill, in my view, is not equal to the scale and the urgency of the care crisis in England.
“It fails to implement the Dilnot report and does not provide a lasting solution.
“It does little or nothing to improve care services now or reduce the cost of care for most people.”
Mr Burnham defended Labour’s decision to table a “reasoned amendment to draw the attention of the House to what we see as two major problems of the government’s approach”.
He said that following the government’s decision to fund a cap above existing council budgets “the care system will continue to go backwards and get worse, not better”. He said rather than help vulnerable people today, the government was choosing instead to promise future help.
Speaking of the proposed £72,000 cap, ministers have pledged to set on care costs, he said “it is not what it seems, it is in my view a care con”.
Mr Burnham also warned that failure to tackle the rise in people on zero-hours contracts in the care sector was sending a message to young people that care work is “the lowest calling”.
He said: “Isn’t it a sad reflection, indeed on both sides of the House, that today in England we have 300,000 care staff in England on zero-hours contracts?
“People who don’t have the security of knowing what they will earn from one week to the next, how can we expect them to pass on a sense of security to those that they care for?
“And, really, isn’t it a message that we’re sending out to people who work in our care service, and particularly young people who may be coming to the care service, that looking after someone else’s mum and dad is the lowest of the low, the lowest calling they can answer, when really shouldn’t it be the very highest?”
Labour said it welcomed a number of measures contained within the Care Bill, which would among other things result in stronger legal rights and recognition for carers, which he said “is well overdue”.
He added: “The idea of a cap on the overall cost of care individuals can face establishes an important principle: it says that people should not lose everything they’ve worked for because of their vulnerability in later life.”
But explaining his party’s decision to table an amendment, he said: “We do not believe that the proposals you are putting forward for a cap are what they seem”.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who conceded that the cap was exclusive of living costs, accused Labour of failing to learn from its past mistakes.
Questioning the amendment, he said: “What more will it take for Labour to learn the terrible lessons of those tragedies?”
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