Politicians from all parties have been urged to work together to
find a way to overhaul the "failing" social care system in
Cross-party talks about the care given to the elderly and
disabled failed in 2010 but will start again this month.
In an open letter, charities, faith-based groups and senior
figures in the NHS and local government say the opportunity must
not be missed.
Plans to reform social care will be put forward in the spring,
But before that politicians are seeking to achieve cross-party
consensus on the best way forward.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, Lib Dem health minister Paul
Burstow and shadow health secretary Andy Burnham are expected to
hold the first in a series of meetings within the next few
In the letter sent to the prime minister and published in the
Daily Telegraph, 72 signatories, including leading figures from
charities such as Carers UK and Age UK, as well as peers, academics
and members of the British Medical Association and NHS
Confederation, have suggested they should not squander the
The letter said: "We should celebrate the fact that we are all
living longer lives, particularly disabled people and those with
"But the unavoidable challenge we face is how to support the
increasing number of people who need care.
"It is currently a challenge which we are failing to meet -
resulting in terrible examples of abuse and neglect in parts of the
"This comes at huge cost to the dignity and independence of older
and disabled people, but also to our society, family life and the
The letter went on to say people were being left "lonely,
isolated and at risk" because of the problems with the current
It cited research produced by Age UK which suggested that of the
2m people with care needs, 800,000 were not getting any support
because councils had started restricting access to services.
In a separate interview with the BBC, Councillor David Rogers of
the Local Government Association said councils, which are in
control of running the means-tested system, are united in their
view of the need for change.
He said: "There is no doubt about the urgency and need for reform.
Without exception, across local government all parties are in
agreement. National politicians must try to come up with
Attempts to reform the system collapsed before the last election
after cross-party talks failed.
Labour accused the Tories of dirty tricks after they launched a
campaign suggesting Mr Burnham, who was then health secretary,
wanted to introduce a death tax to pay for changes to the
Once again, the way any new system is paid for is expected to be
the most controversial and difficult element of the
Last summer a government-commissioned review by the economist
Andrew Dilnot recommended a partnership between the state and
individual with people responsible for the first £35,000 of their
social care costs and the government picking up the bill after
But questions still remain over how affordable this is for both
The government refused to comment on the upcoming talks, but Mr
Burstow said ministers saw reform of social care as an "urgent
Mr Burnham added reforming social care was the "biggest public
policy challenge the country faces".
"This is an issue that transcends party politics and we look
forward to playing our part in any discussions."
You can also listen to interviews on BBC Radio 4 here.
Broadcasts can be heard at 1.09 and 2.10.