Anyone who works closely with users of social care services cannot fail to be aware of the failings of the current funding system for long-term care. With an ageing population and crumbling care infrastructure, something needs to be done.

It is therefore unsurprising that the arrival of Sir Derek Wanless on the social care scene has, given his track record in health funding, raised hopes of revolution. But the real question is whether the government has the appetite or boldness to contemplate the scale of change proposed, and undoubtedly needed, if we are to create a system that can withstand the tests of an ageing population, and is fair, transparent and encourages empowerment, not dependency.

For far too long it has been painfully obvious that sorting out the funding of long-term care has been low on the government's list of political priorities.

The unceremonious burial of the Royal Commission on long-term care for the elderly in 1997 marked the end of this government's short-lived flirtation with this agenda. Since then we have seen little more than sticking-plaster solutions to the problems created by a system which is complex, ill-understood and widely perceived as unfair.

Perhaps it would be too cynical to suggest the sick and frail have been too easy to ignore. But times are changing.

The baby boomer generation are coming of age. Many are currently walking their parents through the labyrinth of care funding and dread trying to navigate the system again for themselves.

The sheer injustice of how care is funded is attracting the attention it has so long avoided and any political party serious about forming the next government had better have answers to the questions being asked by this vocal and politically mobile generation.

Sir Derek Wanless and others have set out a clear challenge by coming up with credible alternatives to the current chaos. They have also laid out the need for investment as a society - in funds and unpaid labour - if we are to provide for our ageing population.

It is time for politicians to set out how they will respond.

Paul Cann is director of policy, research and international affairs for Help the Aged