Wednesday, December 12, 2007

British elderly to get control of their own care budget

An amazingly sensible innovation by British standards. Will this be extended to ALL healthcare one day? We should hope it is

Elderly people will be given money to pay for their own care as part of a radical shake-up of the welfare system, Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, will announce today. The new personal care budgets will give millions of pensioners and younger disabled people the power to decide what kind of care they want and where they buy it. Currently, elderly people are at the mercy of social workers who dictate the services they need to live in their own homes.

Under the new system, which will be introduced next April, older people or their families will set up bank accounts into which councils will pay a monthly sum. Beneficiaries will be means-tested to assess their needs before they are able to shop around for the best "personal care" packages, which will include help with getting dressed or washed, meals on wheels, cleaning services and cooking.

Mr Johnson will announce that councils in England and Wales will be given 520 million pounds over the next three years to fund the new system. "Our commitment that the majority of social care funding will be controlled by individuals through personal budgets represents a radical transfer or power from the state to the public," he will say. "Everyone, irrespective of their illness or disability has the right to self-developments and maximum control over their own lives."

Charities campaigning for better services for the elderly welcomed the move. "We welcome any move to give elderly people more choice about the services they receive in their home," said Mervyn Kohler, a special advisor for Help the Aged. "But we want assurance that they will be given guidance on the services out there. For example, who are the reputable companies? What are the different prices?" Gordon Lishman, the director general of Age Concern, said: "It is absolutely right to put older people's needs at the centre of the care system and to place a clear emphasis on preventive services. "Older people and their families will continue to need information and support to help them negotiate the best care package at the best price with care providers."

The Government devised the new system after becoming convinced that the "baby boomer" generation moving towards retirement would demand more control over the care they received. Ivan Lewis, the minister responsible for care services, admitted earlier this year that social care was one of the greatest challenges facing our society. "People are living longer and developing conditions that we've never known before. Disabled people now have, and rightly want, full and longer lives," he said. "We need a new consensus for a settlement that's fair and sustainable. We need to redefine the relationship between the state, family and citizen."

Under the changes, care homes and agencies providing high-quality home care and day services would be rewarded, while poorer performers would no longer be used by councils and the NHS.



Official British statistics are generally very Soviet these days. British statisticians are the only people in Britain who believe that crime has declined there, for instance

Britain is responsible for hundreds of millions more tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions than official figures admit, according to a new report that undermines UK claims to lead the world on action against global warming. The analysis says pollution from aviation, shipping, overseas trade and tourism, which are not measured in the official figures, means that UK carbon consumption has risen significantly over the past decade, and that the government's claims to have tackled global warming are an "illusion".

The report, from a team of economists led by Dieter Helm at Oxford University, could prove embarrassing for British negotiators at the UN climate summit in Bali, where they are trying to persuade countries including the US and China to agree a new worldwide treaty to limit the effects of global warming.

Britain is seen as a main player as the talks enter their second week, partly because it is one of few countries on track to reduce its emissions as required under the Kyoto protocol, the existing global plan to curb carbon emissions. Ministers are due to arrive for the high-level segment of the talks on Wednesday. By Friday, they aim to agree a road map and timetable for a treaty to succeed Kyoto in 2012.

Under Kyoto, Britain must reduce its greenhouse gas output to 12.5% below 1990 levels by 2012. According to official figures filed with the UN, Britain's emissions are currently down 15% compared with 1990. But the new report says UK carbon output has actually risen by 19% over that period, once the missing emissions are included in the figures. The report says: "This is a dramatic reversal of fortune. It merits an immediate, more detailed and more robust assessment. It suggests that the decline in greenhouse gas emissions from the UK economy may have been to a considerable degree an illusion."

The new analysis measures the UK's consumption of carbon, rather than production. It includes energy consumed to make products and ship them to the UK from countries such as China, as well as the carbon footprint of British citizens abroad. Helm, who is a government adviser, says: "The implications for the UK are stark: the UK has not yet, as ministers repeatedly claim, emphatically broken the link between economic growth and emissions. To reduce carbon consumption in the UK would demand much more radical policies. Excluding carbon imports and excluding aviation provides an artificial picture. We have to take responsibility for the carbon we consume."

The new figures, which are approximate and need more research, threaten the government's pledge to reduce emissions by 60% by 2050, he said. "This puts us in a completely different starting position. We need to move on from all the self-congratulations over [meeting the target set by] Kyoto and look at the real effect of policies."

The report says that Britain's success in meeting its Kyoto target is not related to climate policies, but the result of a major shift from coal to cleaner gas for power generation during the 1990s, and the closure of much of the country's heavy industry. The report says the resulting drop in carbon pollution "gives the impression that the UK is winning the fight against climate change and it leads people to think that the UK is reducing its dependence on greenhouse gas emissions". In fact, it says, "the economy's demand for greenhouse gases may have been growing".


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