Inquiry into care of the old

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The Independent Online
A wide-ranging Royal Commission into long-term care for the elderly is to be announced shortly by Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health.

The appointment of a Royal Commission, the first since the investigation into the Birmingham Six case in 1991, was promised in the Labour general election manifesto, and will be wide-ranging.

It underlines concern among ministers about the plight of the elderly, who may be required to sell their houses or flats in order to qualify for means-tested state aid for their long-term care in homes for the elderly.

Ministers are aware that the decision to hold a Royal Commission, probably chaired by a senior judge, will be seen as an attempt to kick the issue into the long grass. But Mr Dobson will make it clear that he expects the commission to respond with recommendations for possible legislation in this Parliament.

"It will be generous in its terms of reference but not in the timescale," said a Whitehall source. However, the Commission will be told to keep within affordable limits, and not to come up with an expensive wish-list of public spending measures.