Burnham seeks new consensus on elderly care

The Health Secretary tried to cool the row over care for the elderly today by calling a non-partisan conference to address the issue this week.

After a week of increasingly bitter exchanges between Labour and the Tories, Andy Burnham urged opposition parties to put a stop to "negative campaigning" on the highly emotive subject.

Care charities and the Government's ageism tsar, Dame Joan Bakewell, strongly criticised the party political point-scoring of recent days.

Mr Burnham said he would be holding a conference this week to which the other parties, as well as charities and local authorities, would be invited to discuss elderly care funding.

The move comes after cross-party talks designed to reach a consensus between Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats broke down in acrimony last week.

Mr Burnham said he was now "more determined than ever to work with others to see if we can find a consensus".

"I will extend an invitation to the main political parties to put aside partisan campaigns and put the national interest first," he said.

"I hope they will accept it and engage seriously in this debate that the country needs to have.

"If we fail to act, we will fail many vulnerable and elderly people who will continue to have to dig deep into their bank accounts to pay for care.

"In return, I ask that any negative campaigning is suspended. It is not right to use scare stories on an issue that affects so many vulnerable people."

Eighteen charities joined forces yesterday to call for a "serious debate" about improving care for the elderly, admonishing the parties for their squabbling.

The health spokesmen of the three main parties had privately discussed the issue and even agreed some shared principles on it.

But attempts at a consensus broke down and the Tories accused Labour of planning a £20,000 "death tax" to pay for social care.

A Conservative campaign poster featuring a gravestone with the slogan "RIP off" was denounced by Mr Burnham as "grubby and desperate".

There were angry scenes in the Commons when Gordon Brown and David Cameron went head-to-head on Wednesday.

Lord Mandelson, the First Secretary of State, accused the Tories of driving a "wrecking ball" through the talks in a bid for short-term political advantage.

Charities including Carers UK, the National Care Forum, Age Concern, Help the Aged, Alzheimer's Society and Macmillan Cancer Support today urged the parties not to reduce the issue to "election soundbites" and "poster slogans".

In a letter to The Times, 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."

They added: "We are in danger of seeing this most important of debates become reduced to election soundbites and poster slogans. (The care) situation is unsustainable, and we must have a serious debate that delivers a long-term solution.

"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."

The Government's ageism tsar has accused the Tories of "telling lies" about the elderly care plans, but blamed Gordon Brown for turning the issue into a political "circus".

Dame Joan, who was appointed as an independent "champion" for older people in 2008, described the Westminster row as "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."

The Tories stepped up their criticism of the Government after it emerged that pollsters had been employed to test the idea of a 10% tax on estates to fund elderly care.

Mr Burnham ruled out the prospect of a "flat rate" levy, but the Tories accuse him of keeping open the option of some kind of graduated compulsory tax.

That view was bolstered by the discovery that Ipsos Mori had been employed to test public opinion on the idea of a 10% levy on estates, on top of inheritance tax.

Philip Hammond, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: "Last week Gordon Brown refused to deny that Labour were working on plans for the death tax - now we see they are actively canvassing opinion at public expense."

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes