Minister rejects cross-party support for free healthcare proposal for those aged 40 and under – Disability News Service

The government rejected strong cross-party support in the House of Lords for proposals that would mean many disabled people would never have to pay for their social care.

The proposed amendment to the Government’s Health and Care Bill would mean that anyone in England who enters the social system aged 40 or younger would never have to pay for their support.

In effect, it would impose a lifetime zero cap on social charges for many disabled people, rather than – under current government proposals – having to pay £86,000 in social charges before reaching the cap.

The amendmentoffered by crossbencher baroness [Deborah] Bull, a former creative director at the Royal Opera House, won support from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, other MPs and former Conservative health secretary Andrew Lansley.

He would have implemented a recommendation made by Andrew Dilnot, who chaired the care financing commission set up by the coalition government and reported in 2011.

The Disabled Baroness [Jane] Campbell, who also backed the amendment, told the Lords: ‘Care and support for those who depend on it is no less fundamental than health care for survival.

“Without my caregiver to help me eat, drink, move and breathe, I would die, as I would if I did not receive medical attention.

“Without access to support I couldn’t contribute to my community, and I couldn’t work or enjoy life, but to live like my non-disabled peers I would have had to pay for my care until I reaches a ceiling of £86,000 from the age of 18.

“In effect, it is a financial penalty on disability.”

She added: “What is fair about keeping people with disabilities poor? What is responsible for limiting their ability to survive and thrive?

“Rather than liberating them, this pricing policy will undermine their well-being and lock them into an avoidable and costly state of dependency.”

She called on the government to “work with disabled people’s organisations, myself and my colleagues before [the bill’s] report stage to find a fairer way to allow these service users to prosper and to view essential care and support services as a long-term investment rather than a drain on the treasury”.

Another disabled peer, the Liberal Democrat Baroness [Sal] Brinton said: ‘It is a huge form of injustice that we have a free NHS at the point of use and yet young people with learning disabilities and life-limiting health conditions are charged for their essential care .

“I look forward to hearing from the Minister how he thinks the current system is either justifiable or fair.

“While there may be changes trying to fix some of the minor anomalies, what remains is a system that is deeply unfair.”

Baroness Bull said current funding pressures on councils were leading to ‘a further tightening of eligibility criteria’ which meant more people with disabilities ‘had to fund more care out of their own pockets’.

She said: “No one would argue that older people are undeserving of support, but it is hard not to conclude that the government’s reforms are mainly about people who develop care needs later in life, having accumulated assets and savings, at the expense of working-age adults with long-standing needs.

The Baroness of Green Party Peers [Natalie] Bennett supported the amendment, but she also pointed out that her party’s policy was to fund free social care for all adults.

Lord Warner, the crusader peer who was one of the Dilnot Commission members, said he and his fellow commission members did not believe most people aged 40 and under could “realistically expect to have anticipated a need for care and support, nor will they have accumulated significant assets.

“People can still pay off their debts and have large sums to pay on their mortgage, and could have young families.

“We recognized these issues, and that’s why we recommended a zero cap.

“There aren’t a lot of arguments about it; it’s a simple explanation of what the evidence said when we wrote this report.

But despite support for the amendment, junior Health and Social Care Minister Lord Kamall said: ‘The government believes that putting the cap in place allows people to balance their personal responsibility for planning for years to come and puts in place a system where we hope that no one is faced with unpredictable care costs.

He said the government felt the zero cap policy would be ‘unfair’ because ‘a person entering care on the eve of their 40th birthday would have a cap on personal care costs of zero and free personal care for life , but someone entering care after their 40th birthday 40th birthday* would not get the same free personal care with a two-day margin.

“We considered that a cliff edge of this magnitude would be unfair.”

But Lord Warner told him: “The proposal for age 40 was in the report; it has been around for 10 years.

“It is a bit late in the day to suggest that this was an inadequate proposal from the Dilnot Commission.

“Ten years is a long time to discover the truth.”

Baroness Bull has withdrawn her amendment, but if the government does not return with its own amendment or offer in compromise, it is thought likely to be reintroduced at report stage of the bill.

*While unclear, this appears to be a misinterpretation of the amendment, which actually refers to those who received care and support “at or before age 40” being eligible for the cap zero, rather than taking the 40and birthday as a limit

Photo: Baroness Campbell (to the left) and Baroness Brinton, who both took part in the debate remotely

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About Antoine L. Cassell

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