Changes to social care cap pass through the Commons

Published by Scott Challinor on November 23rd 2021, 1:01pm

The government’s amended plans for the £86,000 social care cap in England have narrowly been passed in the House of Commons, despite several Conservative MPs rebelling.

The amendment to the Health and Care Bill went through by 272 votes to 246, with 19 Tory MPs voting against it and 28 abstaining.

With the changes, fees for personal care, such as help with washing and dressing will be counted toward the lifetime cap, but not money paid for living costs such as care home fees, food or utility bills. Means-tested local authority support payments for those who are eligible will also not be counted toward the cap.

Although care home fees will not count toward the £86,000 lifetime cap, these costs will be limited to £200 per week.

The plans have received fierce criticism from Labour and other opposition parties, who believe that poorer people will end up spending more to pay for care than those with more substantial assets.

From October 2023 according to the government’s social care plan, individuals with assets under £20,000 will not have to pay anything from their assets towards care fees but may be expected to pay from their income.

Anyone with assets between £20,000 and £100,000 will qualify for financial help from the local authority which will be distributed on a means-tested basis. Beneficiaries will have to pay £86,000 of their own money to hit the cap, however, with financial support not included towards the cap. If they cannot pay for care from their own income, then they will contribute £1 for every £250 they have in assets.

Those with over £100,000 in assets meanwhile, will not be eligible for financial help from the local authority and will fund toward the £86,000 cap entirely from their own pocket.

Beyond the £86,000 care cap, local councils will meet the care costs of individuals, using funds raised by the new hike in National Insurance, dubbed the Health and Social Care Levy.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who was among the Conservative MPs to have abstained, told the BBC that the wider social care plan was “an improvement on what we have today” but warned that the practicalities of the spending cap were a “big disappointment” and “not as generous as people like me wanted”.

The amended Bill is expected to face some opposition in the House of Lords, where it is to be debated next.

Health minister Edward Argar argued that the reforms would benefit the majority of people, particularly with the changes meaning that those with assets of up to £100,000 can access council support to pay for care costs.

However, Argar conceded that it was important to assess the impact of the changes before the Bill passes through Parliament entirely to be given royal assent and enshrined in law.

Indeed, Sally Warren from the King’s Fund has been critical of the changes to the social care cap, highlighting the fact it was put before MPs with a lack of notice and that there was the notable absence of an impact assessment to gauge the effects of the changes.

Warren said that the amendment constituted a “regressive step” which would “leave people with low levels of wealth still exposed to very high care costs.”

She added: “It is likely to mean that some people with moderate assets living in poorer areas will still be forced to sell their home to pay for their care, while wealthier people from richer parts of the country will be protected from this.”

Labour shadow social care minister, Liz Kendall, has previously been critical of the proposed changes, and said that the passing of the amendment in Parliament came as a direct contradiction to a Conservative manifesto promise made in 2019.

Kendall said: “Tory MPs broke the promise they were elected on that nobody would have to sell their home to pay for care.

"Instead, they voted to tax ordinary working people, while the wealthiest in our country are unaffected.”

The prime minister has since said that the new social care system will be “progressive”.

“Under the existing system nobody gets any support if they have assets of £23,000 or more - now you get support if you have £100,000 or less, so we're helping people.

“We're addressing a longstanding social injustice and it will benefit the people of this country,” Boris Johnson said.

Photo by Darv on Unsplash

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Scott Challinor
Business Editor
November 23rd 2021, 1:01pm

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