Updated: Government launches new social care white paper - tell us about your experiences

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley pledged to end the 'postcode lottery' of social care in England from 2015 by imposing a national minimum eligibility threshold.

Plans to give pensioners moving into residential care state loans so they do not have to sell their homes are meaningless without ideas on how to pay for care, Labour said today.

The announcement is part of a raft of proposals published today by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley about how to deal with England's ageing population.

But shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: 'Despite the obvious political risks in doing so, we faced up to the difficult issue of how to pay for care and support in the century of the ageing society.

'This Government has failed to do so. With no answers on the money, this White Paper fails the credibility test; it is half a plan.


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'The proposals set out today are in danger of appearing meaningless and may in fact raise false hopes among older people, their careers and families.'

The 'universal deferred payment' scheme for care homes was first proposed by a Royal Commission more than a decade ago.

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Since then, councils have been able to offer interest-free loans to people who face having to sell their property to pay for care.

But the scheme announced today will order councils to provide the loans.

Under the plan, relatives of residents would be able to sell the family home to pay for the care after their relation has died.

Mr Burnham said English councils were already struggling to provide services because of Government cuts and would be under more pressure after the package revealed in Mr Lansley's Commons statement.

The shadow health secretary feared councils would charge commercial interest rates on the loans so they did not lose more cash.

He added: 'If this is the case, taking on such large amounts of debt may be very frightening indeed for older people.'

Ministers' plans follow a review of social care by economist Andrew Dilnot, who recommended a cap on the amount pensioners pay for their care.

The Government's favoured limit is �35,000, but there was no concrete proposal in Mr Lansley's announcement.

Mr Burnham said: 'This is the problem with the Government's White Paper. They are adopting a pick-and-mix approach to the Dilnot package which was conceived as a coherent and complementary whole.'

In his statement to MPs, Mr Lansley claimed the flagship proposal to provide loans for care would spare old people the misery of selling their houses while they were still alive.

The Health Secretary said: 'No one will be forced to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for care.'

He also revealed �300 million would be switched from the NHS to fund social care over the next two years.

He told the Commons the care system would become more transparent so pensioners and their families could make better-informed decisions.

'To make it easier for people to get the care they want, we will ensure they have better access to independent advice,' said Mr Lansley.

'We will make it easier for people to see whether a care provider is good or not so they can make real choices through an online quality profile for each provider.

'We will work with a range of organisations to develop comparison websites so people can give feedback and compare the quality of care for themselves.'

The Government also said local authorities in England would be banned from buying home-help care by the minute, which imposes strict time limits on old people's contact with their carers.

Mr Lansley said the decision to rule out the 'crude practice' would mean patients were treated with dignity and respect.

He added: 'We inherited a system that too often let people down and was unfair, a system which was complex and confusing and which responded to a crisis but too rarely prevented it.

'For many years people have called for a system fitted around the needs of care users, not the preferences of the service; one that puts people at the heart of the service and delivers high-quality care with dignity and respect.'

For analysis of what this means in Norfolk see tomorrow's EDP.

Do you have an experience of being affected by the so-called 'post-code lottery' of social care? Leave your comments below of email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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