The Government has been warned not to take for granted that its MPs will back social care reforms, after Health Secretary Sajid Javid promised “everyone, doesn’t matter where they live in the country, will be better off” under the plans.
Ministers have come under fire for changes to proposals which critics have said will mean poorer recipients of care, including those in the north of England and in areas with lower house prices, will be hit hardest by a cap on costs.
And the Observer reported on Sunday that senior Tory MPs were urging the Prime Minister to ditch the plans or risk being forced into a U-turn without their support in a vote due in the Commons on Monday.
“Not particularly happy” with the plans
Speaking to Times Radio, Christian Wakeford, Tory MP for Bury South in the so-called Red Wall, said he was “not particularly happy” with the plans.
He said: “When we were talking about the tax increase, the levy introduction, whichever term you want to refer to it as, we borrowed a lot of money because of Covid, the NHS is in very stark contrast to where it was pre-pandemic. So I wasn’t necessarily against an increase.
“What I wanted to see was a plan and it feels like we didn’t have one then, I’m not fully sure we’ve got one now, but then to change, to move the goalposts after we’ve already been introduced this, it’s not something I’m particularly comfortable with it.
“Especially when one of the main messages for introducing this levy was, you won’t need to sell your house for care, to get to a point where unfortunately you might need to and (it’s) arguably our least well-off in society, our least well-off voters, again it’s not something I’m particularly comfortable with.”
In September, the Government announced that an £86,000 cap on care costs would be put in place from October 2023.
It also said that people with assets up to £20,000 will not have to contribute anything to their care (up from £14,250), while those with assets to £100,000 will be eligible to receive some local authority support (up from £23,250).
North and the Midlands
But in a policy paper released on Wednesday, the Government said that for people who receive financial support for part of their care from their local authority, only the share they contribute themselves will go towards the £86,000 cap.
And groups said the change would mean such households receiving “far less protection than expected”, and that they could still face catastrophic costs that would eat up a greater share of their assets compared with wealthier recipients.
While Labour said its analysis had shown the changes would mean the average homeowner in two-thirds of northern areas will have to pay more towards their care. In the Midlands a third would be worse off.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Government ministers have not only whacked up tax on working people but are now asking MPs to vote for pensioners across the North and Midlands with modest assets to be hit hardest under Boris Johnson’s care con.
“Red Wall Tories should learn the lessons of the past two weeks, put their constituents first and join us in voting down this deeply unfair proposal. Ministers need to get back to the drawing board and come up with a fairer package.”
Sir Andrew Dilnot, who led a review into the future funding of social care a decade ago, had said those with fewer assets “will not see any benefit” from the new funding structure, with the Government set to make savings “exclusively” from this group.
And Mr Wakeford told Times Radio that while he would consider all the amendments and the Bill in full, “it shouldn’t be taken for granted” that Conservative MPs will back it.
He said: “There are a lot of concerns out there. If we’re changing the goalposts again halfway through the match, it doesn’t sit comfortably with me, or many colleagues.”
But Mr Javid told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One that Sir Andrew was only comparing his own proposals with the Government’s plan.
The Health Secretary said: “No-one will have to pay more than £86,000, doesn’t matter who they are, where they live in the country.”
But he was pushed that not everyone has assets of more than £86,000, and Mr Javid replied: “That’s where we’ve set the cap, so to protect you from catastrophic costs, because most people’s care journey is not that long, most people’s care journey is a couple of years.
“But one in, I think it’s around one in seven people, have costs higher than £86,000.
“What we have also done, which is very different to what Andrew had set out in his original plans, is we’ve got a much more generous means test.
“So what our plans mean, taken together, is that everyone, everyone – doesn’t matter where they live in the country – will be better off under the new proposals that we set out, versus the current system. Everyone will be better off.”
The Government has said that the changes to the proposals will ensure people “do not reach the cap at an artificially faster rate than what they contribute”.
But Sir Andrew said there is a “sort of North-South axis to this that people living in northern and other less-high house price areas are likely to be hit harder by this on average”.