All elderly people to get free personal care under £6bn Labour plan

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By Greg Heffer, political reporter, in Brighton

Announcing the plan in his conference speech, shadow chancellor John McDonnell will describe social care as a “national scandal”

All elderly people will be given free help in their own homes with washing, preparing meals, and getting in and out of bed under a £6bn scheme being proposed by Labour.

Under the party’s vision for a “National Care Service”, a Labour government would introduce free personal care for all older people in England living at home and in residential care.

The plans, to be unveiled at Labour’s conference in Brighton, will also seek to address the funding gap in social care; support local authorities to directly provide, rather than outsource, care; and to ensure the elderly receive support from trained staff.

Announcing the policy in his conference speech on Monday, shadow chancellor John McDonnell will describe the country’s social care sector as a “national scandal”.

“As the first building block in our new National Care Service the next Labour government will introduce personal care free at the point of use in England,” he will say.

“Funded not through the Conservatives’ gimmicky insurance schemes but, like the NHS and our other essentials, through general taxation.”

Mr McDonnell will add: “Nothing is more important than dignity in retirement for those who have built our country and given younger generations the world we live in today.”

Labour said their proposal was estimated, by the Kings Fund think tank, to cost taxpayers around £6bn in 2020/21.

The party added the plans would more than double the number of people receiving state-funded care; ensure people with dementia receive the same care as those with other conditions; and also reduce the burden on unpaid carers.

Labour is also pledging to halt the use of zero-hour contracts in the care sector, ensuring carers are paid a real living wage and including for travel time, as well as ending 15-minute care visits.

Barbara Keeley, Labour’s shadow minister for social care, said: “Nine years of cuts to local council budgets have pushed care services to the brink.

“For years, the Tories have failed to bring in much-needed reform, leaving too many people and their families struggling to afford the care they need.

“Tackling the crisis in social care is a priority for Labour.

“Our plans for social care will address the immediate crisis in care, double the number of people receiving publicly-funded care, and stop people with dementia being treated unfairly by the care system.

“It is vital that social care is a universally-available public service which provides dignity, security and compassionate care.

“Our National Care Service will have these principles at its core.”

Currently, in England, only those with savings less than £23,250 are eligible for council funding for care costs.

Former prime minister Theresa May shelved her plans for an overhaul of social care funding after her manifesto proposals ahead of the 2017 general election were dubbed the “dementia tax”.

The publication of new social care plans have been delayed several times by the Conservatives.

However, in this month’s spending review, Chancellor Sajid Javid announced that councils will have access to £1.5bn in new funding for social care next year.

Responding to Labour’s proposals, Caroline Dinenage, minister for care, said: “Thanks to our responsible management of the economy, this Conservative government is able to invest in our vital public services.

“At the Spending Round we announced an additional £1.5bn for social care, which comes alongside the largest increase in local government spending power since 2010.

“Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell would wreck the economy and make it harder to deliver for the people who need it the most.

“Labour have a track record of making empty promises – the truth is, under a Labour government there simply won’t be enough money to pay for it.

“Only Boris Johnson and the Conservatives will boost our economy, so that we can properly fund our vital public services and give every older person the dignity and security that they deserve.”