Government plans are good news for older people but major funding questions remain

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Older people are likely to benefit from the social care proposals outlined in the government White Paper on improving community health and care services - but only if we establish what resources are needed to make the vision a reality.

That was the view of The King's Fund in response to the government White Paper, Our health, our care, our say: a new direction in community services.

The King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson said:

'We welcome the strong emphasis the government has placed on preventing ill health and providing more choice and better access to community health and social care services. It's also encouraging to see the commitment to breaking down the barriers that still exist between adult health and social care. We want to see much closer integration between the delivery of NHS and social services and we hope today's announcement is a sign that this will become a reality throughout England. This can only benefit people who use services.

'The proposals have the potential to give people more control, especially by greater use of direct payments and the development of individual budgets. There are questions as to who will be eligible for individual budgets, who will have to pay for care services and how far authorities can take on the important prevention agenda at the same time as lifting the quality of intensive care services.

'We also welcome the focus on commissioning between primary care trusts and local authorities. We know from our recent inquiry into care services for older people in London that shortcomings were related to failings in the market and there was an urgent need for skilled commissioning to support a range of services for people with diverse needs. The piloting of individual budgets and extended use of direct payments will be an important step in making services more responsive.'

Niall Dickson added:

'The big challenge is making all of these well-intentioned policies reality. It's a big agenda and we know that local authorities and primary care trusts are still struggling to engage in prevention as they are concentrate on those in greatest need.

'The government rightly acknowledges in the White Paper that there are significant resource challenges. We are pleased that ministers are looking to the review of social care for older people being undertaken for The King's Fund by Sir Derek Wanless as one way to inform discussions on the correct level of funding needed.'

Notes to editors

  1. For further information or interviews, please contact the King's Fund media and public relations office on 020 7307 2585, 020 7307 2632 or 020 7307 2581. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.
  2. The King's Fund commissioned a fundamental review into the long-term demand for and supply of social care for older people in England in January 2005. This is being led by former NatWest Group chief executive Sir Derek Wanless, and follows the two independent reviews that Sir Derek conducted for the government on future health care spending in the United Kingdom and on public health in England. Sir Derek is expected to report back in March.
  3. The King's Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. We carry out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on our own, in partnerships, and through funding. We are a major resource to people working in health and social care, offering leadership development programmes; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.