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Vulnerable at risk while ministers debate social care

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Council chiefs have warned that a funding “blackhole” means vital services are being stripped from vulnerable people, as the government consults on the future of the social care system.

Health secretary Alan Johnson has unveiled a six-month debate which seeks to tackle pressure arising from the need to provide support to a rapidly ageing population while tax revenue is falling.

The government will ask the public and stakeholders at a series of regional events for views about forging a new system.

'Radical change needed'

Mr Johnson said “radical change is needed” to the existing system. Laying down the ground rules for the consultation, the health secretary said that a new system needed to be affordable for government and families while targeting support for those most in need.

“Funding is a vital part of this debate, but it is not just about money. It is also a question of individual choice, enabling people to live as independently as possible for as long as possible,” he said.

System 'creaking at the seams'

But Cllr David Rogers (Con), chair of the Local Government Association's community wellbeing board said the social care system was “creaking at the seams”.

He added: “Social care budget increases have not kept pace with demographic changes forcing councils to withdraw services for people with low and moderate needs such as help with the cleaning and bathing.

“Ministers need to turn with urgency to the long-term overhaul of the future funding of adult care services as there remains a blackhole in funding for the care of vulnerable people.”

Launching the consultation, Mr Johnson flagged up a new£31m trial of technologies such as “telecare” and “telehealth” that can help people with diabetes, heart or chest problems manage their conditions at home. This avoids the high cost of hospital admission.

The pilot is being rolled out across Kent, Cornwall and Newham.

A new website on the debate has been launched

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