People may have to sell their homes to pay for social care, admits Boris Johnson

People may have to sell their homes to pay for social care, Boris Johnson has conceded, watering down a key Conservative manifesto pledge.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister told the Cabinet that under his new system, “no one will be forced to sell a home they or their spouse is living in as it will not be counted as an asset”, according to a No 10 readout of the meeting.

His comment appeared to reveal a crucial dilution of the pledge his party made at the 2019 general election, by introducing the caveat that pensioners’ homes would be protected from funding care costs only if they were living in them rather than in other settings such as care homes.

Previously, the Tory manifesto had made the wider guarantee that it would be a “condition” of the Government’s forthcoming social care policy that “nobody needing care should be forced to sell their home to pay for it”.

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman did not deny that he had, in essence, admitted that some people would lose their homes as a result of the vote on Monday night, when changes to ministers’ initial social care cap plans narrowly passed in the Commons.

The social care cap across England

The Government’s majority was slashed to 26 after 19 Tories rebelled and many more abstained on the controversial amendment, which will stop means-tested support counting towards the £86,000 cap on care costs. Critics warned that the move would cost less well-off pensioners more in assets than wealthier pensioners.

Attempting to play up the benefits to his Cabinet, Mr Johnson said his package would “finally address the longstanding problem that leaves one in seven people facing catastrophic care costs”.

His spokesman later told reporters: “It’s about striking the right balance and we believe that this amendment is the correct approach. It allows us to be more generous in other areas, such as on daily living costs”.

He also insisted that there was “no intention” to reverse the policy. 

Ministers came in for severe criticism over their climbdown in the Owen Paterson affair, after having levied heavy pressure on Tory MPs to back the original plan.

However, the Government is facing growing calls from Tory MPs to publish an impact assessment of his social care package, amid concerns it will hit the less well-off hardest.

Sir Bob Neill, who abstained in Monday night’s vote, told The Telegraph that the Prime Minister should release the evidence by the end of next week as a deadline.

‘Urgent’ talks over care worker shortfall

Alongside concerns over the new funding model for social care, the recruitment and retention of workers in the sector is proving another major headache for ministers.

NHS leaders, charities and councils have warned that a shortfall of about 120,000 care workers is leading to elderly people being left without support and compounding pressure on the health service.

Michael Gove told council leaders on Tuesday that he will meet Mr Johnson and Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, for “urgent” talks on the issue, which he branded the most pressing of the “many and formidable” challenges besetting local authorities.

He admitted that the Government needs to do more to improve the system and provide adequate resources. Burnout from the pandemic, the mandatory requirement for staff to receive Covid vaccines, and higher wages being offered in unskilled jobs have contributed to the exodus out of the sector.

Campaigners are calling for an immediate bonus and pay rise for staff and for immigration rules to be relaxed so more migrant workers could come to the UK to take up care roles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *