Mayor un­veils his vi­sion of ‘fully free care for life’

Rochdale Observer - - WHAT’S ON - Jen­nifer.wil­liams@men-news.co.uk @jen­williams­men

GREATER Manchester could be­come the first place in the coun­try to axe so­cial care charges, end 15-minute home vis­its and in­tro­duce a care tax un­der a rad­i­cal pro­posal tabled by its mayor.

Andy Burn­ham wants min­is­ters to trial a com­pletely new model of so­cial care in the re­gion, which he says would pro­vide ‘fully free care at the point of use for all of your life’.

He be­lieves his plan gives gov­ern­ment the an­swer to the coun­try’s grow­ing so­cial care cri­sis.

Un­der his blue­print, fund­ing would no longer split be­tween the NHS and the ail­ing so­cial care sys­tem but be paid to the NHS in one lump sum, which he be­lieves would in­cen­tivise it to fund home care prop­erly and keep peo­ple out of hos­pi­tal.

His pro­posal would also see so­cial care charges – which cur­rently can end up leav­ing many peo­ple with no op­tion but to sell their house in old age – scrapped and re­placed with a new levy or tax.

Mr Burn­ham is ask­ing gov­ern­ment to con­sider the idea in the up­com­ing bud­get, ar­gu­ing the Tories made a mess of their own so­cial care pol­icy dur­ing the gen­eral elec­tion and should look at some­thing dif­fer­ent.

“I don’t think we will ever solve it while we wait for peace to break out at na­tional level and I believe I can do it,” he said. “I’m go­ing to make gov­ern­ment an of­fer, which is to make Greater Manchester a trial for the re­form of the fund­ing of so­cial care.

“It would mean no­body wor­ry­ing about so­cial care charges or whether they can keep a large part of their home and sav­ings. Peo­ple can’t plan at the mo­ment.

“Theresa May does need to come back to this is­sue af­ter what hap­pened in the gen­eral elec­tion and for us, it takes away the party po­lit­i­cal bit.

“This would pro­vide fully free care at the point of use all of your life.”

Ul­ti­mately the for­mer health sec­re­tary wants his plan to end the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in which hos­pi­tals are paid a ‘tar­iff’ for each day a pa­tient is in hos­pi­tal – while at the same time so­cial care, which is over­seen by coun­cils, re­mains blis­ter­ingly un­der-funded.

Greater Manchester alone is fac­ing a short­fall of more than £1bn in its so­cial care bud­get, which has helped fuel soar­ing lev­els of bed-block­ing, putting pres­sure on the NHS while leav­ing many peo­ple fac­ing home vis­its of just a few min­utes at a time.

Un­der Mr Burn­ham’s plan if a per­son was as­sessed as need­ing so­cial care, an an­nual bud­get would be iden­ti­fied by the NHS and they would then be given the care in which­ever set­ting was nec­es­sary, rather than in an ex­pen­sive hos­pi­tal set- ting. That would, Mr Burn­ham be­lieves, lead to far more – and bet­ter – home care.

He said some parts of the re­gion – in­clud­ing Sal­ford and Tame­side – are al­ready well ad­vanced in plans to merge health and so­cial care. If we did it this way NHS or­gan­i­sa­tions would have to em­ploy high qual­ity so­cial care and the 15-minute visit cul­ture would end at a stroke,” he said.

“Stage two would be to find a way to pay dif­fer­ently, with no charge. It would end the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in which the more vul­ner­a­ble you are, the more you pay.”

Cur­rently the mayor does not have the pow­ers to im­pose any kind of tax or levy to fund so­cial care, but Mr Burn­ham is ask­ing gov­ern­ment to look at the pos­si­bil­ity.

As shadow health sec­re­tary he was vi­ciously crit­i­cised by the Tories for propos­ing what they slammed as a ‘death tax’ to fund so­cial care – a charge on es­tates when peo­ple die.

He has so far not out­lined the kind of tax or levy he would in­tro­duce in Greater Manchester.

His plan is the brain­child of Wi­gan coun­cil leader Lord Peter Smith, one of the ar­chi­tects of the re­gion’s health de­vo­lu­tion deal.

●●Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burn­ham

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