Labour is considering a radical plan to make social care free at the point of need and funded through taxation, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has said.
Speaking at the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers’ summit in York, Mr Burnham said he was thinking of “extending the NHS principle fully to social care”, HSJ’s sister title Local Government Chronicle reports.
He said this would be an extension of his existing plan, approved at the Labour party conference last month, to merge adult social care budgets with NHS funds and put health and wellbeing boards in charge of commissioning both hospital and social care services, worth about £89bn nationally.
“I think the time’s come now to build a social care system that’s based on the same principle [as the NHS], where everybody looks after everybody and we enable everybody to protect what they’ve worked for,” he said. “So that idea is on the table.”
He said: “It’s quite a powerful vision… You’d create the conditions for true integration if you had a level playing field. Then you can say to the public, all of your care or your parents’ care will be free at the point of use and the vast majority of what they’ve worked for will be protected.
“OK, people might say it’s a ‘death tax’, but we’ve got worse than that now, because we have dementia taxes.”
Also at the conference, Mr Burnham said that without the much bigger role in health and care that he envisaged for local government, councils would run the risk in the next decade of “[shrinking] back to a small core of statutory functions and not being in the business any more of making significant changes to place and to people”.
He said that in order for his vision of joined-up health and care to become a reality, “Westminster is going to need to learn to trust local government again.”
During his time in government, he said, he had “observed an attitude of distrust” towards local government. “I believe that is wrong”, he said.
“Westminster needs to give local government a proper job to do, and that proper job needs to be improving the health and wellbeing of the public.”