Social care: Minister fails to guarantee people will not have to sell homes to pay for care

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A minister has failed to guarantee people will not have to sell their homes to pay for social care ahead of a possible Tory rebellion over the issue.

Paul Scully, the small business minister, told Sky News Boris Johnson’s 2019 manifesto promise was a “single headline” and it is not possible to tackle the problem of paying for social care by boiling it down into one line.

The government is facing a possible backbench rebellion today over anger that the least well-off may still have to sell their homes to pay for care.

Why the government's social care plan is worrying some Tory MPs

Why the government's social care plan is worrying some Tory MPs

MPs will consider whether to accept changes to the government’s proposed social care reforms announced last week that mean any help from the government will not count towards a lifetime cap of £86,000 – only what people pay privately.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said “everyone will be better off” under the reforms but MPs of all parties have said those with assets between £20,000 and £100,000 will struggle to reach that cap so may have to sell their homes to pay for care.

Mr Scully told Sky News’ Kay Burley: “There will be fewer people selling their houses and hopefully none.

“I can’t tell you what individuals are going to do.

“What I’m saying is the social care solution is all about getting a cap above which you do not need to pay – that gives people certainty.”

Pushed on whether Mr Johnson was lying about nobody having to sell their home to pay for care, Mr Scully added: “No, I don’t think he was.

“He was boiling down a complicated message – which is why social care hasn’t been dealt with in at least 10 years – to something that people could appreciate.”

He added: “If we boil it all down to a single headline then you’ll never tackle any thorny issue like social care.”

What are the changes and why could they be unfair?

In September the government announced a new £86,000 cap on the amount anyone in England should have to pay for their care when they get older or unwell.

People with less than £20,000 in assets – value of their home, savings or investments – will not have to pay anything towards their care, which is up from £14,250.

Those with assets between £20,000 and £100,000 will also now be eligible for new means-tested financial support from their local councils to help with the cost of their care.

This is calculated by taking into account how much income you have – and whether you are nearer the £20,000 lower limit or £100,000 upper limit.

But changes announced last week reveal that those means-tested payments you receive from your local council do not count towards the £86,000 cap.

This has led to accusations it will be unfair on poorer people and those who live in areas where homes are worth less.

For example, if you have a home worth £90,000, under the new means-tested system, you will be eligible for local council payments to help with the ongoing cost of your care.

But those payments don’t count towards the £86,000 limit, at which point you no longer have to pay anything.

So the journey to that £86,000 will be slowed down by local council payments that don’t count towards the cap – forcing you to pay with your own money instead.

But because the £86,000 cap is universal, someone with a home worth £1million won’t get council support, but will reach the £86,000 cap quicker, and be left with more than £900,000.

Mr Scully insisted that there needed to be a cross-party consensus on social care.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the County Councils Conference the change to how the cap is calculated is “very disappointing” and is “a less progressive measure than was hoped for”.

But he urged MPs thinking of voting to throw out the changes this evening to refrain from doing so as he said the cap is the most important change and how it is reached can be altered.

“Once this cap has been introduced at this current level, it will be entirely open to governments in the future to change the way the cap is calculated to make it more progressive going forward,” he said.

“I think the really important thing is we have a cap which we didn’t have before and so we have a system in place and we can then have a grown-up political debate about how the cap should operate on.”

The PM defended his plans ahead of the vote, telling the CBI annual conference they are “incredibly generous and much better than the existing system”.

“We are addressing a long-standing social injustice and it will benefit the people of this country,” he added.

File photo dated 17/7/2019 of former health secretary Jeremy Hunt who has warned that the UK is facing a "now or never" moment to fix the social care system. Issue date: Saturday June 26, 2021.

But shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told Sky News the details on the cap are a “care con”.

He told Burley: “If you live in a £1m house in the home counties, 90% of your assets will be protected if you need social care but if you live in an £80,000 terraced house in Hartlepool, Mansfield, Bury, Wigan, you lose nearly everything, that is not fair.

“That’s not levelling up, it’s daylight robbery so we’re saying to Tory MPs ‘join with us tonight in rejecting this proposal and instead ask the minister to retreat to the drawing board and come up with something fairer’.”

A number of Conservative backbenchers have also been publicly critical of the proposals.

Former cabinet minister Damian Green told Sky News: “The flat rate means that you are much more likely to have to sell your house if you live in an area where house prices are lower, which is where most people are not well off, and that is monstrously unfair”.

Former justice secretary Robert Buckland earlier said he was planning on voting against the plans during the vote at 10pm today.

Other backbench Tory MPs are expected to join him following lingering ill-feeling after being whipped to support former MP Owen Paterson in a standards row which the government then had to perform a U-turn on.

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