Plans to provide free care at home for vulnerable elderly people were thrown into serious doubt, as the government was defeated in the Lords. With time running out before the general election, which is expected on May 6, it is almost impossible to reverse the defeat, and the bill will lapse within two years if not in force.
Peers voted to approve amendments to the Personal Care at Home Bill that has the effect of holding up the implementation of the scheme by at least six months. It postponed the start date of free home care from 1 October this year to 1 April 2011.
The bill aimed to provide 400,000 vulnerable elderly people with free personal care in their homes, at an estimated annual cost of £670 million. £420 million of this would be funded by the Department of Health while the rest would be met by local authorities.
Peers listened to The Local Government Association, who highlighted problems of councils across the country at having to find annual costs of £250 million during a time of cuts.
Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb said: “This is a humiliating defeat for the Government on a shabby, shameless and short-term measure which would do nothing to heal a social care system in crisis. This vote marks the death knell of a cynical attempt to buy the votes of older people that would have led to cuts in social services for some of the most vulnerable. Labour should be ashamed of its failure to deliver a fair long-term care system for elderly people. We must now get on with the serious business of securing comprehensive reform. All the parties owe it to those in need of care to provide a fair and affordable solution.”