Reforms to end social care postcode lottery

Andrew LansleyHealth Secretary Andrew Lansley has pledged to end the "postcode lottery" of social care in England from 2015 by imposing a national minimum eligibility threshold.

Around £12.5 million a year will also be made available to ensure people who move house continue to receive care while they await re-assessment by their new local authority.

Both measures, to be included in the Government's Care and Support White Paper on Wednesday, will be welcomed by campaigners seeking reforms. But the package remains under fire because ministers have failed to give any assurances over finding the £1.7 billion-a-year required to rescue the ailing care system.

Mr Lansley said the present system - where each of 152 local authorities decide their own eligibility criteria - was "confusing and unclear".

While town halls will remain in charge of deciding who qualifies for care however, from 2015 they will not be able to turn away anyone who meets a set level of need.

Councils were also warned by officials not to further narrow the band of people given state help despite facing massive pressure on budgets as a result of funding cuts and rising demand.

"No one should fear moving house or areas because they are worried that they will lose out on vital care and support," Mr Lansley said. "By bringing in measures to ensure continuity of care when people move, they will no longer feel trapped."

It emerged at the weekend that a progress report to be published alongside the White Paper will formally back the idea of a cap on the amount any individual pays for social care over their lifetime.

But it will also say that a decision on whether it can be afforded will have to await the next spending review in 2013/14 - making reform unlikely until after the next election.

The move sparked a political row, with Labour accusing ministers of abandoning cross-party talks and "kicking the issue into the long grass" and charities saying it had failed to address the looming crisis.

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