On the Politics Show, Sunday 14 October 2005, Jon Sopel interviewed Ivan Lewis MP, Minister for Social Care.
JON SOPEL: Well I'm joined now from Manchester by the Minister for Social Care, Ivan Lewis, Ivan Lewis, welcome to the Politics Show. Can we say that following the PBR this week, the pre budget report, that essentially, no-one in future will have to sell their home to pay for social care.
IVAN LEWIS: Well first of all, under the chances we introduced in about '98, '99, nobody has to sell their home because of the deferred payment scheme. What the PBR signal was, this is one of the great challenges that now faces our country. People are living longer, that's going to continue.
More and more difficult conditions like dementia and disabled adults expect full lives. As a result of that, we need a new funding system, a new consensus for a new settlement, which re-defines the responsibilities of the government through the taxpayer and the individual, and we're going to consult widely across the country in the next few months and then produce a green paper.
JON SOPEL: Will everybody now be getting some money to pay for their care.
IVAN LEWIS: Be absolutely clear about this, the status quo is not acceptable, which is why we're embarking on the road to reform. Equally, the notion of free care for all, is not deliverable, and would be irresponsible. What we have to get though, is much fairer balance in the context of a change in society, between the State's responsibilities and the individuals responsibilities. We are not, as government, as this stage, wedded to any particular model.
Wanless came up with a proposal which is described as co-payment, where the government guarantees everybody a universal minimum, and then people are expected to top up according to their means. We welcomed that as an important contribution to the debate, but as I say we are not wedded at this stage, to any particular model. We want to consult people, we want to throw open to the British people, the genuine range of challenges and issues that we face, on this one and make we try and come up with an all-party agreement as much as anything else.
JON SOPEL: Sure, but we heard a couple of very interesting case studies in that report there, and Mike Salmon having t pay so much money out each month to look after his mother and his mother in law. Is there going to be some degree of universality. I'm sure people are listening very carefully at home to what you're saying, and thinking, well how is this going to affect my life now.
IVAN LEWIS: I'll try and go through, through the different issues very quickly. First of there's a question at the moment of people who self-fund are expected to navigate this very complex system for themselves or their family member, without any help - they're left on their own, that cannot be acceptable. We have a threshold for any. (interjection)
JON SOPEL: Let me just stop you there. So you're saying that Mike Salmon would get some help, it's not acceptable at the moment.
IVAN LEWIS: Well, the fact that if you have an assessment, which says your means mean you're not going to get any public subsidy whatsoever, instead of helping you to choose the right care for yourself or your vulnerable elderly relative, you're left on your own: that cannot be right.
Secondly, the threshold in terms of your own reserves, in terms of twenty one thousand pounds, if you have twenty one thousand pounds, you get no support whatsoever so there's a, a cliff edge and third of all, there's a situation where the amount of support you get, can depend on where you live in the country. And that's another issue that has to be addressed.
JON SOPEL: So you're saying that people are essentially standing on the edge of a cliff.
IVAN LEWIS: Well, I think that there is a sharp cut off point, so if you have means, assets of twenty one thousand pounds, you get no financial support and one of the questions this review has to answer is, is that right. Is the system as progressive enough as it needs to be.
JON SOPEL: I'm just trying to clarify what you mean. Is it help for more people but not help for everyone.
IVAN LEWIS: Well first of all, everybody in my view is entitled to help to make the right choices in terms of care, for themselves or their vulnerable elderly relative, rather than to be left on their own. Then the question is, in terms of the overall financial cost of the package, first of all, we believe that people will be announcing proposals about this, later this week, should have far more control over how that money is spent and have their own individual budgets, we think that's incredibly important, rather than be told by professionals about where the care is going to be provided. And then we have to resolve, what is the taxpayer going to contribute through the State and what should we continue to expect individuals to contribute. What's fare and what's affordable.
JON SOPEL: Mr Lewis, you're not new to this brief, you've been looking at this problem for some time, what is your own favoured solution.
IVAN LEWIS: I don't have a favoured model.
JON SOPEL: Why not.
IVAN LEWIS: I've come to the conclusion that because of demographic change, because of the fact people expect far more control and choice now, the existing system, going forward if you look at the demographics, is not appropriate. We need a new system which is fair and sustainable. It has to be a partnership between the government and individuals.
I'm going to consult up and down the country over the next few months and we're going to try and come up with a Green Paper, which identifies the scale of the challenge and the range of alternative solutions, and we want it to be genuinely an all party agreed way forward, in the same way as we were able to achieve consensus on the future of pensions in this country.
JON SOPEL: So again, no clear vision, you're going to listen and learn. That sounds a bit like the rest of this government. How would you characterize the past couple of weeks for them.
IVAN LEWIS: Well, it's been a very, very difficult couple of weeks. What we need now is self discipline. We need unity behind our Prime Minister and we need to remember that we're Labourites, not Blairites or Brownites and most importantly of all, we need to focus on the concerns of the British people, their individual aspirations, the next stage in our programme, to create world-class public services, and the strengthening of communities, based on rights and responsibilities.
JON SOPEL: You say we need to unite behind our Prime Minister. Does that imply that there are certain people who are not uniting.
IVAN LEWIS: It means that we need to stop playing any games associated with the Westminster village and focus on the British people's concerns. We've got a record ¿ (interjection)
JON SOPEL: Is what Charlie Falconer said helpful.
IVAN LEWIS: Charlie Falconer was a great Minister in our government...
JON SOPEL: Is what he said helpful.
IVAN LEWIS: ...he's made a massive contribution over the last ten years. But we should resist playing Westminster games and focus on the every day concerns of the British people, and demonstrate that... (interjection)
JON SOPEL: Was he playing Westminster games. Was he playing Westminster games. (overlaps)
IVAN: LEWIS: ...vision, to the Tories and the future of this , in terms of the future of this country.
JON SOPEL: Was Charlie Falconer playing Westminster games?
IVAN LEWIS: Well I, I think that we have a responsibility to be united behind our Prime Minister. He has overwhelming support in the party. Every polls says, people still prefer him to lead this country, far more superior poll ratings than Cameron, in terms of leadership. What we need to now do, is focus on demonstrating that our values and our vision for the future, is far superior to the same old Tories, who are representing the interests of just a few in our country.
JON SOPEL: Ivan Lewis, thank you very much for being with us today.
IVAN LEWIS: Thank you.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH IVAN LEWIS
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