Hospital wards for the elderly would close under Labour's social care plans

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Hospital wards for the elderly would be closed to release funds for old people to be cared for in their own homes under plans to tackle the looming social care crisis being drawn up by Labour.

The Opposition believes the transfer of resources would improve services for old people and their quality of life – and make big savings at a time when the deficit must be brought under control.

Liz Kendall,  Labour’s spokeswoman on social care, will outline the party’s initial thinking today (thurs)  in a speech warning that difficult decisions will have to be made under a switch to a community-based system based on prevention and early intervention.

She will say that the NHS now spends £500,000 every day on delayed discharges from hospitals. Projects run by Labour councils show that every £1 spent on “partnership” community care services led to an additional saving of £1.20 on emergency beds in hospitals.

Ms Kendall will tell the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank: “Fewer older people are getting the care they need. More are ending up having to go into hospital, or getting stuck in hospital, or more expensive residential care when they don’t need to. And families face ever-increasing charges – for home care, residential care, day care and meals on wheels – which vary hugely across the country.”

She will argue that £1bn has been cut from local authority budgets for old people’s social care since the Coalition came to power in 2010, with eight out of 10 councils providing care only for those with substantial or critical needs.Ms Kendall will say “This growing care crisis is a huge but all too often hidden problem for families on middle as well as low incomes.”

Labour has identified child care and social care as the two main planks of a new strategy on the welfare state to be outlined at the next election.

Ms Kendall has just begun talks with Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers to see if a cross-party consensus can be reached on Andrew Dilnot’s Commission on Funding Care and Support last year.  It proposed that an individual’s lifetime contributions towards social care costs be capped at £35,000 at a cost to the Government of £1.7bn and that the means-tested threshold, above which people are liable for their full care costs, should be increased from £23,250 to £100,000.

Today (thurs) Ms Kendall will describe the blueprint as “a major step forward" but say it will not solve the problem because it does not address the current costs of the system.