Page last updated at 01:06 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Peers defeat move to delay free social care plan

Elderly people
Social care is means-tested in England

An attempt to delay a bid to provide free personal care at home for some 250,000 people in England has failed.

The House of Lords voted against a motion tabled by former health minister Lord Warner.

He had argued that the government's proposal was "unaffordable" and proper consultation had not taken place.

The proposal was originally put forward by Prime Minister Gordon Brown at Labour's conference and is expected to be a key part of its election campaign.

The plan has attracted criticism from peers, local government and campaigners because a wider review of social care is also taking place.

The free personal care plan affects only about half of the 500,000 people receiving care in their own home - most of these are elderly, although some are people with disabilities.

On top of that, more than 400,000 living in care homes would not benefit from the bill.

In contrast, during the summer, a Green Paper was published putting forward a series of proposals affecting the whole range of social services.

These include radical plans to impose charges, perhaps as much as a £20,000 bill payable on retirement. The current system is means-tested.

Lord Warner argued the free personal care plan should wait until the government knew what it was doing with the wider review.

He also highlighted claims by social services chiefs that the government had greatly underestimated the cost of introducing the service for people needing help eating, washing and dressing.

He told the House of Lords: "The more I discover about this bill the less I like it."

However, his amendment was defeated, although the legislation still will not be implemented before the election.

Before the debate, Health Secretary Andy Burnham said it had been properly costed and was about "making the system fairer".

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