Frank Field MP
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The time for long term care reform?

The Government today recycles much of its previous statement on social care. A compulsory levy will be introduced to create a universal system of social care for adults in England, according to the plans now unveiled by ministers.

What will follow is Labour wins? At best a new commission will be established to look at when and how the fees should be applied. If we are lucky we will then get a new system implemented in the parliament after next.

During my time as an MP I have undertaken two major funding pieces of work. The first was on building up a funded pension scheme to wrap around the current state pay-as-you-go scheme. The aim was to pay a pension above means-tested assistance for every citizen who played the game.

The second piece of work centred on, as it was called then, long-term care. I believed we were entering into an age when the size of the state would be questioned.

I was anxious for this not to be a negative debate with downsizing being equated with cuts in what the government does.

I certainly believe the government should get out of some of the areas in which it is now involved. But part of the new contract with taxpayers was to welcome its exit from areas we can best look after ourselves, and encourage new forms of collective provision covering new needs.

This was part of how I hoped we would renegotiate the national insurance contract. If we are going to have a system that rewards those who play by the rules, then national insurance will have a growing role and means-testing a diminishing one.

The two pieces of work made the following distinction. As practically all of us retire we need to save for that retirement, i.e. transfer existing income to a claim on future income.

But most of us, thank God, will not need long-term care. Hence my argument for a reinvention of national insurance where the risks are spread over all of us and not concentrated on the one in seven or one in eight of us who will need intensive care for longish periods towards the end of our lives.

The idea was to have this new scheme up and running before the end of the 1997 Parliament.

The details of these publications can be found here.
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