Support for Sir Derek Wanless's proposals for a new social care funding system is growing and attention is now shifting to cutting a £3.7bn benefits bill to help pay for it.

At a King's Fund conference last week, senior spokesmen from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats backed Sir Derek's 'partnership model'. This would entitle all service users to a minimum free package of care while the cost of the full optimum package is shared between the state and individual.

Care minister Ivan Lewis said he wanted a progressive and fair system that was 'affordable'. 'We have to be very honest with people about the trade-offs,' he said.

One 'trade-off' may be cuts in a range of benefits paid to around 1.5 million disabled over-65s which cost£3.7bn, the conference heard. Attendance allowance and disability living allowance benefits are needs but not means tested. Sir Derek suggested money might be better spent on social care for older people, going much of the way to supplying the£4.3bn his proposals would cost.

Asked about the proposal, Mr Lewis admitted: 'We don't have anywhere near enough evidence as to the impact of the attendance allowance or indeed on how that money on the whole is spent.'

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