Page last updated at 22:56 GMT, Tuesday, 30 March 2010 23:56 UK

Government in 'retreat' over personal care for elderly

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Ministers have been accused of a "massive climbdown" after they agreed to delay plans to provide free care at home for elderly and vulnerable people amid concerns over costs.

As MPs debated Lords amendments to the Personal Care at Home Bill on 30 March 2010, Care Services Minister Phil Hope revealed that the government would not seek to overturn an amendment made in the Lords which would delay enactment of the bill until the next Parliament.

Gordon Brown's plans to provide 400,000 vulnerable elderly people free help with the likes of washing, eating and bathing in their homes - rather than moving them to residential care - had been due to come into effect on 1 October, subject to the bill being passed.

But local authorities raised concerns about the funding of the plans, estimated to cost around £670m a year - with £420m provided by the Department of Health and the remainder coming from councils.

Care Services Minister Phil Hope said: "We are recognising that a new Parliament may wish to confirm the arrangements for implementing this first important step towards a future National Care Service.

"Local authorities will still have the time they have told us they need to implement the legislation most effectively."

Accepting the amendment "recognises the collective desire for more time to implement these measures and more time to scrutinise them", he added.

But Tory backbencher Bill Cash said: "The government has performed a massive climbdown."

Shadow health minister Stephen O'Brien said the Tories welcomed the government's move, adding: "I think it is important that perhaps we portray this as being an attempt at an honourable retreat by the government, rather than a U-turn."

Liberal Democrat spokesman Norman Lamb said: "This gives an opportunity for a pause for reflection in the next parliament."

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