Older people could benefit from free personal home care if Department of Health proposals are passed by Parliament.

Introducing the plan, health secretary Andy Burnham said the Personal Care at Home Bill would give hundreds of thousands of people the independence they crave, as well as the comfort of staying in their own homes for longer.

This bill is the first significant step towards making our system of care simpler, fairer and more affordable

Andy Burnham

He said the proposals would guarantee free personal care for 280,000 people suffering from conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia, adding a further 130,000 would be provided with the equipment and services needed to retain their independence.

“This bill is the first significant step towards making our system of care simpler, fairer and more affordable,” Mr Burnham said.

“It offers help now to the most vulnerable members of our society, most of whom have already paid out significant sums towards the costs of their care.

“People want to stay independent by living in their own homes for as long as possible. But we all face the prospect that one day we may need help with everyday tasks like washing and dressing.

“This shouldn’t mean that an individual needs to move into residential care. Offering free personal care at home for those with the highest needs regardless of their means will help achieve this.”

Critics of the bill say it has not been thought through properly, arguing the government has vastly underestimated the number of people who would seek free care if it were to become law.