Labour offers to suspend 'politics as usual' in attempt to find elderly care solution


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Labour has offered to suspend “politics as usual” in an attempt to find a long-term solution to the problems of funding social care for the elderly in England.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham warned politicians were in danger of failing millions of older people amid reports that the Treasury was stalling over plans for reform.

The Government had originally been due to publish its response to the recommendations of the Dilnot Commission - which drew up a blueprint for reform - last autumn.

But the BBC reported that it had been delayed again until next month amid concerns over the fairness and affordability of the plans.

Under the commission's plans, the amount individuals had to pay out for social care before the State stepped in would be capped at £35,000, at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of £1.7 billion a year.

Mr Burnham said he had “some concerns” over the way cross-party talks, aimed at producing a political consensus on the way forward, were progressing.

He said ministers now needed to show “political courage” and he offered to suspend normal party rivalries in order to enable them to take the difficult decisions involved.

“People have waited long enough for political parties to get their act together, and leaving the current flawed system in place would be the worst of all possible worlds,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“There is no solution to this without some difficult options and I think it is possibly fear of the political impact that is making the Government step back.

“The offer I would make today to the Government is almost to suspend politics as usual to give them the space to bring forward some difficult options without the usual point-scoring.

“That is really what we have been trying to do through the cross-party talks. I really want those talks to succeed because how depressing would it be for the millions of older people to see politicians fail to grasp this nettle?”

Conservative MP Matthew Hancock, seen as a close ally of Chancellor George Osborne, said the Government was moving towards a solution but cross-party agreement was essential.

"The need to tackle the problem of social care and also to ensure that people don't have to sell their homes to pay for it if they don't want to, I think, is vital and is grasped," he told the Today programme.

"The fact that we have got a draft bill in the Queen's Speech is progress but it does need cross-party support because this is a long-term issue."

Labour peer Lord Warner, who was a member of the Dilnot Commission, warned that the current system was in danger of failing unless action was taken.

"If you do nothing, which is what we are drifting towards ... you are actually going to have state-funded residents in nursing homes and residential care homes not receiving services because the providers of those services cannot continue to provide those services at the levels of reimbursement they are getting," he told Today.