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Tory manifesto: Boris Johnson fails to commit to long-term social care plan after 'dementia tax' backlash

Manifesto at odds with Mr Johnson's pledge on the steps on Downing Street to 'fix the crisis in social care once and for all'

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Sunday 24 November 2019 15:59 GMT
Tory manifesto: Boris Johnson fails to commit to long-term social care plan after 'dementia tax' backlash

Boris Johnson has failed to lay out a long-term strategy to resolving the crisis in social care as detailed proposals on helping vulnerable and elderly people were missing from the Conservatives election blueprint.

Bruised by the disastrous "dementia tax" policy that derailed Theresa May's 2017 campaign, the prime minister pledged £1bn a year to fund the sector over the next five years but delayed making any firm decisions until cross-party consensus could be found in parliament.

At the launch of the Tory manifesto in the West Midlands, Mr Johnson promised that no one would have to sell their home to pay for care - but failed to give details on whether there would be a long-term plan in place by the end of the next parliament.

The attempt to kick social care policy into the long grass is at odds with Mr Johnson's pledge on the steps on Downing Street to "fix the crisis in social care once and for all" using a "clear plan we have prepared".​

It comes after repeated delays to the long-awaited social care green paper, despite promises from health secretary Matt Hancock that the document was ready for publication more than a year ago.

Pressed on whether he could offer a cast-iron guarantee of a long-term social care plan, Mr Johnson said: "Since this government has been we've allocated about £1.5 billion towards addressing the social care issue both for adult and child social care and helping local councils with the huge pressures that they face.

"We are going to put another billion every year in the life of the parliament into fixing that but what we're also going to do, is do what I think people in this country would expect us to do, which is to build on what I think is a growing national consensus about the way forward.

"And we will reach out cross party - we will be optimistic and the way we do that, and try to bring people together - and we will have a long term plan that achieves two things.

"First of all, it ensures that everybody has dignity and security in their old age, and secondly that nobody, nobody has to sell their home to pay for the cost of their care."

His answer represents a significant watering down of his pledge to confront the social care crisis head on in his first speech as prime minister.

Speaking outside No 10 in July, Mr Johnson said: "My job is to protect you or your parents or grandparents from the fear of having to sell your home to pay for the costs of care and so I am announcing now – on the steps of Downing Street – that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared."

Ms May's 2017 campaign was dealt a fatal blow after she was forced to make a damaging u-turn on her social care plans - which were dubbed a "dementia tax" by critics.

But Tory caution may have consequences, as charities and social care providers have sounded the alarm on the precarious state of the sector which is under pressure from the ageing population and increased demand.

Barbara Keeley, shadow social care minister, said: "Having cut almost £8 billion from social care, the Conservatives are letting down older and disabled people by completely failing to propose a solution to the care crisis they created.

"The Tories have confirmed what we suspected earlier this week: their pledge on social care is a plan to develop a plan, with no new money. You cannot trust them to fix the crisis in social care."

Dr Jennifer Dixon, chief executive at the Health Foundation, said the absence of coherent policy on social care was a "shameful omission for a party that’s been in power for nearly a decade".

She said: "After nearly one thousand days since a green paper was announced and one hundred days since Boris Johnson promised to fix social care once and for all on the steps of Downing Street, this can only be described as a wasted opportunity.

"We have a promise that no one will have to sell their home to pay for their care, should the Conservatives remain in power, but no idea who would foot the bill instead.

"While cross-party consensus will be critical to any reform succeeding, there is a clear risk that there will be further delay and no hard decisions taken for the future."

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