GLENDA JACKSON: Opposition’s heinous agenda on care plans

What a difference a Dame makes. When the highly-respected Joan Bakewell voiced her opinion on the political fracas over the Government s proposed National Care Strategy, both the political commentariat and the opposition parties re-adjusted their focus. D

What a difference a Dame makes. When the highly-respected Joan Bakewell voiced her opinion on the political fracas over the Government's proposed National Care Strategy, both the political commentariat and the opposition parties re-adjusted their focus.

Dame Joan, as the Government's voice of older people, rightly castigated the approach to one of the most serious issues facing this and every other highly-developed country. Namely, how to ensure that an ever-expanding, ageing population, can be properly cared for without breaking either the national or individual bank accounts.

Costs are obviously highly important to the decisions we as a country make, but so too are the manner and place in which care services are provided. And certainly for me and many people I know, that place would be in our own home, and the manner be based on dignity and respect.

That is central to the Government's proposals in our National Care Strategy which has just completed its consultation process and will eventually become a Bill.


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So the strategy is for the long-term, nothing as yet decided, and yet quite outrageously dubbed by the official opposition as the Death Tax. But their overt scare-mongering on the future of care in this country has form, and in my opinion a heinous form at that.

They have, it seems to me, quite deliberately blurred two Government initiatives. One, the long-term National Care Strategy. The other, introducing free personal care at home from October 2010 for 280,000 of our most vulnerable citizens.

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The reaction to this latter piece of legislation by the official opposition was to state categorically that it could only come into being by cutting existing benefits. As Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: "It is completely wrong to claim that we are funding any aspect of Labour's care reform proposals by cutting people's benefits."

Yet the Leader of the Opposition has few qualms about exploiting Parliamentary privilege, the chamber being the place he made that erroneous allegation on the funding for free personal care.

So let's be clear. Free personal care for 280,000 people will come into being in October 2010 funded by �420million from the Department of Health and �250million from local Government efficiencies.

And despite the protestations from, in the main Conservative councillors, such savings are not additional to the already agreed four per cent. So, clearly, scaremongering is fast becoming an official opposition party principle.

The decisions which we, as a country, will have to make for the long term will require more detailed debate - in an atmosphere of reason and responsibility, not one of empty posturing or as someone said, 'gutter politics' for party political advantage.

We will all grow old, and we are living longer. How we, as a country, ensure that those additional years are worth living, are still productive and engaging, with benefit not only for the individual and their families but for our wider communities, warrants clear thinking and an honest exchange of ideas, compassion, and humanity. Not insensitive, illogical, and invidious posters.

q Glenda Jackson is the Labour MP for Hampstead & Highgate, which becomes the Hampstead & Kilburn seat at the next General Election

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