05 November 2004
The forthcoming green paper on adult social care will tackle older people's reluctance to take responsibility for their own provision, senior ministers said this week.
Ministers have been disappointed with the take-up of direct payments – which allow individuals to purchase their own care package – a central plank of the government's choice agenda.
Social care minister Stephen Ladyman said: 'Take-up of direct payments has not been as fast as we would like to have seen with older people. The reason given is the perceived complexity of the system.'
Ladyman told Public Finance that his strategy for the green paper, expected by the end of the year, was to include a proposal for a 'halfway house' between direct payments and more conventional methods of care provision.
Under this scheme, older people would be allocated personal budgets, allowing them to influence their care packages, but services themselves would be organised by the local authority.
Professor Ian Philp, the older people's czar, added that giving older people and their families more direct control was a key challenge for the future.
'Over the next few years I expect older people and their families to have increasingly positive expectations for good health in old age,' he said. 'This means older people having greater control over their services as well as taking more responsibility for looking after their own health.'
Philp was joined by Prime Minister Tony Blair and health ministers on November 2 to launch Better health in older age, a progress report on the implementation of the National Service Framework for Older People.
The framework, introduced in 2001, set out eight standards for improving health and social care for older people. These included a commitment to root out age discrimination, action on preventing falls and strokes and access to a new range of intermediate care services.
The report concluded that older people were healthier and more active than ever before, making the most of health screening and immunisation programmes as well as taking part in activities from cookery to tai chi.
Ladyman said the framework had delivered some 'startling triumphs'. A £100m funding package to help local authorities tackle so-called bed-blocking had saved 1 million hospital bed nights, he said.