Minister admits more should be spent on care for the elderly

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Charles Clarke, the Labour Party chairman, said yesterday there was a "powerful" case for increasing funding on care for the elderly after a report attacked the Government's record on the issue.

A coalition of charities, including Help the Aged and Age Concern, warned that the care sector was "in crisis" and that pensioners' lives were being put at risk by chronic underfunding. The report attacked cuts to the number of residential care home beds and called for a cash increase to the "Cinderella sector of the welfare state".

Labour council leaders have warned that they are facing a £1bn shortfall for social care and will raise the issue at the party's Local Government conference in Cardiff, which starts today.

In a clear message to the Treasury, Mr Clarke said that town hall leaders had a strong argument for receiving more funds in the Chancellor's three-year spending review in July. "I think the social services case is very powerfully made both by the Association of Social Services Directors, the Local Government Association and by Labour leaders in local government," he said.

"That is a powerful claim in the comprehensive spending review process. I take seriously and I know Alan Milburn takes seriously the points being made on this."

Sir Jeremy Beecham, Labour chairman of the Local Government Association, welcomed Mr Clarke's "sympathy and support" for an area that would complement NHS reforms.