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Government to outline care changes

The government's plans on how to reform the long-term care system for the elderly in England are to be revealed.

The coalition's "vision" on how to tackle the difficult issue of adult social care is to be published by care services minister Paul Burstow.

It will state that, in line with the coalition agreement, personal care budgets should be provided by local councils to those who are eligible by April 2013.

As part of Prime Minister David Cameron's vision of the Big Society, it will also say that people's continuing independence should be supported through more local activity.

The white paper on social care, due to be published next year, is to be preceded by a consultation from the Department of Health.

A separate commission to probe the future funding of social care has already been set up, while the Law Commission is looking at the legal framework.

The previous Labour government examined a number of options for reform before the General Election, but an attempt at cross-party talks with the Conservatives and the Lib Dems to find a common way forward collapsed amid bitter recriminations.

The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) said the current system was in "crisis" and urged the government to act to ensure that the most vulnerable in society were properly looked after.

"Social care budgets are at least £4bn short to keep pace with inflation and social care continues to be the Cinderella service of the welfare state - under-funded and overlooked," said NPC general secretary Dot Gibson.

"Now it's time we ended the era of means-testing, complexity and poor quality services. The best way to do this would be through the creation of a national care service that is free at the point of delivery and paid for through general taxation."

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