Baroness Judith Jolly writes: new Social Care Bill focuses on people not systems

The Care Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform the social care system. Currently there is a morass of legislation, confusing to those who work in the system and almost impenetrable to those in need of care, or their carers. It is leaving behind those who fund themselves to work it out as they go along. These are the most vulnerable in our society – the elderly and those of working age who are disabled and need care. The Bill focuses on people, not systems, and has received plaudits from all quarters.

Today I will stand up in the chamber of the House of Lords to take part in the Second Reading debate of the Bill, the first major stage in the passage of a Bill. I shall be immensely proud as this is as the results of Lib Dems in government.

Labour and the Conservatives ducked reform of the care system for decades and it was Lib Dem Minister Paul Burstow who had the will and political capital in the Department of Health and with the care sector to push it following a report by the Law Commission. Norman Lamb picked it up when he was appointed, putting his mark on it by including the focus on integration of care and health services.

The Bill implements a number of the recommendations of the Francis Report to ensure that the disgraceful failures at Mid-Staffordshire are never repeated. These include Ofsted-style ratings for hospitals and care homes and a new Chief Inspector of Hospitals in the Care Quality Commission with the power to take action when failures such as those as Mid Staffs are identified.

There will never be enough money in the system, and much as I regret it, making social care free for all is not an option for now. But there will now be a cap on care costs, above which the local authority will step in. This was proposed by economist Andrew Dilnot and will avoid people facing catastrophic costs. Currently anyone with assets of £23,250 (including your property) is responsible for paying for their social care. This will rise to £118,000, so people will get help much earlier.

The Bill is not perfect and it is only at the beginning of its legislative journey from the Lords to the Commons and then into law. I will keep you posted on its progress, but this is a Bill we can really welcome.

* Baroness Judith Jolly has been a Liberal Democrat peer since 2011, and previously served as Health Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords from 2017 to 2020.

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  • I understood that there is to be a sliding scale between £23,250 and £118,000, with a means test which could adversely effect those with moderate savings.
    Is it also not the case, that with accommodation costs added on and the sums based only on what local authorities pay, [which currently has often to be topped up by resident or family,]most people would not live long enough to have reached the £75,000 cap?
    I also distinctly remember Labout trying to get cross party agreement, while in power and the Tories were banging on about a “death tax.”

  • David Rogers 22nd May '13 - 11:27am

    An excellent summary from Judith Jolly, both of the proposals in the Bill and of its political origins. I wish those both in the unelected chamber and in the House of Commons every success in negotiating a satisfactory outcome to the Parliamentary process, and am only sorry not to be more directly involved now, from a local government perspective. Jemima Bland’s comments about dignity and respect also recognise key aspects of the Bill’s intentions.

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