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Burstow: Treasury is obstacle to care reform

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The former care services minister Paul Burstow has accused the Treasury of being an “institutional obstacle” to social care reform.

Speaking at a King’s Fund meeting on Thursday, Mr Burstow (Lib Dem) said the reforms set out by the Dilnot Commission, which proposed a cap on the amount an individual would pay towards the cost of their care, were a “rational response for the future”.

“But there is an institutional obstacle to success in this area”, he said. “It’s called Her Majesty’s Treasury. It’s called the Treasury’s inability to grapple with multi-spending period decisions, and this is a multi-spending period decision writ large.”

Mr Burstow attracted controversy in January when, as a minister, he told the health select committee there was no crisis in social care funding.

He told Thursday’s King’s Fund meeting: “We can have our disputes about whether there is a gap [in care funding], and whether the gap is this size or that size.

“But what I’ve never disputed - on or off the record - is that there are cuts taking place in local authorities up and down the country when it comes to care and support, and councils are making different decisions and taking different approaches.”

Also at the meeting Stephen Dorrell (Con), chair of the Commons health select committee, suggested putting the newly formed health and wellbeing boards in charge of commissioning both health and care services.

“In the [health select] committee we’re discussing the thought that health and wellbeing boards are best placed to develop that cross-system, joined up view”, he said.

He said he was looking into the idea that the boards, which will be officially established from April 2013, should become the “prime contractor” of an “integrated service”.

Labour’s shadow care minister Liz Kendall also said it was “really important” that politicians looked at joining up health and care budgets. “Why would you as a local council invest in home adaptations and better trained home help, if any benefits from keeping an older person at home were accrued by the NHS?”

Ms Kendall also admitted that Labour “didn’t grasp the nettle on social care during our time in government”.

Also at the meeting Mr Dorrell painted a bleak picture of the future of social care. “Day by day, standards in the current system are slipping further away from what we would want for ourselves and our families,” he said.

“If the system doesn’t change it will simply run out of money and vulnerable people will get hurt.”

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