Ministers have quietly watered down plans for a cap on social care costs — a move that experts warn will hit the poorest hardest and could leave some paying twice as much.
Under proposals to be voted on by MPs next week, the £86,000 threshold on costs will only count direct contributions and not any means-tested money received from the state. That makes it likely that only wealthier people will benefit from the cap.
The decision risks alienating new Tory voters in former “red wall” areas, who will miss out while the assets of rich southern households are protected.
Labour said the changes, released on the government website while Boris Johnson was facing MPs over the second-jobs scandal, had been “sneaked out under a cloud of Tory sleaze”.
Torsten Bell, the head of the Resolution Foundation, described it as a “big change” – warning the benefit of the cap will be “much reduced”.
“This techy sounding shift could double your care costs if you’ve got around £90k, but makes no difference to someone with £500k who gets almost all their assets protected,” he said.
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, warned: “I am really worried about the impact of this change on disabled people of working age too.
“As I understand it, it will make it considerably harder for many to reach the cap than we had hoped.”
The move – which MPs are expected to vote on next week – is revealed in a document entitled Adult social care charging reform: further details, released as the Commons was voting on a sleaze crackdown.
Claiming the move will “reduce complexity”, it said an amendment to the 2014 Care Act will alter “the way that people within the means test progress towards the cap”.
The impact would be that “only the amount that the individual contributes towards these costs will count towards the cap on care costs, and people do not reach the cap at an artificially faster rate than what they contribute”.
Liz Kendall, the shadow care minister, said: “We already knew most people won’t hit the cap because it doesn’t cover board and lodging in care homes.
“And that, at £86,000, the cap would still mean many people will have to sell their homes to pay for their care – against everything Johnson promised.
“It has now been revealed that the poorest pensioners will have to pay even more, something Andrew Dilnot – who proposed the cap – explicitly ruled out because it was so unfair.”
Sir Andrew will have an opportunity to give his views when he gives evidence to the Commons Treasury committee on Thursday on the social care rescue plans.
Those plans, involving a £12bn-a-year tax raid, were already under fire because most of the cash will go to the NHS despite an estimated 1.6 million elderly and disabled people currently without the care they need.
Councils and charities warned town halls would continue to be starved of the billions needed to provide for people in their own homes, a verdict backed by the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies.
“It is clear that the extra funding will not be sufficient to reverse the cuts in the numbers receiving care seen during the 2010s,” the think tank said.
Lifetime care payments will be capped at £86,000 from October 2023, to allow homeowners facing “catastrophic” care costs, for conditions such as dementia, to pass on their properties to their children.
No one with assets below £20,000 will pay any social care costs – but, although there is a “floor” of £100,000, people with assets between £20,000 and that amount will contribute on a sliding scale.
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