HEALTH champions from East Lancashire have dismissed comments from a government minister who said Britain should follow the example set by Asian immigrants when caring for the elderly.

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat justice minister, said families should take greater responsibility for their elderly relations instead of ‘forcing’ them into care homes that cost on average about £550 per week.

He said: “Our society has often left too many people who are the responsibility of the public services on their own in later life, even though they have family alive and other people you would have thought would care.

“We need to learn better the lessons of many other cultures and communities, of which the Asian and African communities are noticeable. They understand the obligation to look after your family to the end.”

“If we had a society in which we collectively take responsibility for our families I think we would see fewer people dependent on the state.”

Brian Todd, chairman of the Blackburn with Darwen Older People’s Forum, said: “Simon Hughes is living in the last century because children move around now. We don’t expect them to live within 50 yards of where they were born and they often live hundreds of miles away.

“Asian families are changing as well and any social services department will tell you there are now more elderly Asian pensioners needing statutory help, though not to the same extent.

“I accept there’s a problem but the answer is to beef up the government’s support for those who need help. ”

Pendle councillor Azhar Ali, the Labour chairman of Lancashire’s health and wellbeing board, said: “Culturally in the Asian community there is a lot of emphasis on looking after the elderly and sick, but I don’t think it’s right to put a wedge between Asian and white families like this.

“Every community can learn from each other and things are changing. And you only have to look at the huge number of unpaid carers in East Lancashire to realise that people here are doing a lot for their loved ones.”