Page last updated at 11:41 GMT, Saturday, 13 February 2010

Charities tell politicians to end care reform spats

Charities concerned with social care say the issue should not be politicised

Eighteen charities have demanded the Labour and Conservative parties stop using the issue of care reform to score political points.

This week it emerged that the three main parties, including the Lib Dems, had met privately over the issue.

But talks broke down and MPs verbally attacked each other in Parliament over their parties' respective plans.

The organisations said politicians had to find a "sustainable" solution to improve care for the elderly.

The Conservatives accused Labour of planning a £20,000 "death tax" to pay for social care, while Health Secretary And Burnham said a Conservative campaign featuring a gravestone was "grubby and desperate".

Carers UK
Counsel and Care
Joseph Rowntree Foundation
National Care Forum
English Community Care Association
Alzheimer's Society
Age Concern and Help the Aged
Resolution Foundation
MS Society
Macmillan Cancer Support
Sue Ryder Care
Contact A Family
Crossroads Care
Princess Royal Trust for Carers
Grandparents Plus
Parkinson's Disease Society

Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused the Tories of a U-turn, saying they had initially supported a plan to provide free personal care for the most vulnerable elderly people in England.

During prime minister's questions on Wednesday, Conservative leader David Cameron asked Mr Brown "where is the money coming from?" and whether he would rule out a compulsory inheritance levy to pay for it.

During the same session, Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said an attempt to build a consensus between the parties had been "undermined by this descent to a puerile level of point scoring".

On Friday, Lord Mandelson, the First Secretary of State said the Conservatives had driven "a wrecking ball" through the talks so that they could have a short-term political advantage.

Organisations including Age Concern, Help the Aged and Macmillan Cancer Support jointly wrote to the Times to denounce the squabble.

They said: "We welcome the political attention that social care is receiving. However, we are in danger of seeing this most important of debates become reduced to election soundbites and poster slogans."

In the letter, they said: "The vexed question of who pays is unquestionably difficult, and the solutions may be controversial - but the costs of failing to act are simply too great to allow the debate needed to be drowned out by party-political squabbling."

We need a care settlement that delivers long-term solutions that will not be reversed by changes in government or in the economic climate
Letter to The Times

They called for a "serious debate" and said: It is premature to rule out future proposals to score a political point... social care reform needs to be an issue of consensus.

"We need a care settlement that delivers long-term solutions that will not be reversed by changes in government or in the economic climate."

Government advisor Dame Joan Bakewell - described as its "voice of older people" - said the row between the parties was "shameful".

"It's highly regrettable that political interests have stepped in where a really serious issue was being discussed by serious men with the interests of older people at heart," Dame Joan said.

"The fact that it has become a political circus is shameful."

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