The care system is broken and it is right to have a public debate about how it can be fixed. The Green Paper signals a welcome willingness to confront some of the hard questions. All political parties and the public must now look beyond the short-term squeeze on our national finances to agree a fairer way to pay for care. High-quality care must be available to all who need it regardless of where they live and whether they are rich or poor.
With time now short, the Government must set out a clear timetable to move from debating options to agreeing and implementing specific proposals. The opposition parties have rightly criticised the slow progress on care reform but now they too must rise to the challenge by backing government plans or bringing forward their own.
Concerns remain over a number of matters including the Government's preferred methods of funding a better care system, which seem to be at the expense of older people. While strongly supporting proposals to "pool" the risk of paying for care, costs must be shared fairly across the generations.
We are also concerned about proposals to abolish a benefit that helps older people meet the cost of dealing with disability (attendance allowance) simply to prop up the system as it is today. The paper also floats the idea of older people paying for a kind of social insurance which would cost at least £20,000 but does not canvas views on lifelong contributions. It also stops short of suggesting care home accommodation costs should be met, which will impose another cost on older people.
With the debate so far largely focusing on costs and payments, we would like to see more attention given to other key issues including providing more preventative care and how the quality of care can be improved.
Over the past year, Age Concern and Help the Aged have sought the views of thousands of older people about the future of care and support, as well as carrying out its own research into reform options. The charity will now immediately set to work measuring all the Government's proposals against these criteria and seeking the views of older people on the proposals.
The writer is the charity director of Age Concern and Help the Aged