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Thursday, 18 May 2017

Social care plans will 'ensure fairness across generations' as PM defends reforms

Written by Gavin Cordon

Theresa May has defended her plans to reform the funding of social care, saying it was essential to ensure fairness "across the generations".

Under the proposals set out in the Conservative manifesto, thousands more people will have to contribute to the cost of their care - although they will not have to pay during their lifetime.

The Prime Minister said the scheme marked the first time a government had produced a proper long-term plan for the sustainability of social care in England.

However critics warned that it left people facing an uncertain future with no control over their care costs.

Under the new Conservative blueprint a planned £72,000 cap on care costs, which had been due to come in in 2020, will be scrapped.

Instead, the Government will offer protection from the cost of social care for people with assets of £100,000 or less, a sharp increase on the current £23,250 threshold.

However, the value of an elderly person's property will now be included in the means test for care in their own home, meaning more people will be liable to contribute to the cost of being looked after.

At the same time, the Tories said they would scrap the "triple lock" on pensions, replacing it with a less generous "double lock" - ensuring they still rise in line with prices or wages, whichever is higher - while the winter fuel allowance will be means tested.

Mrs May said that as people would not have to pay while they were alive, it would remove the worry that people would have to sell their homes while they were still alive or see their savings dwindle away.

She added that the triple lock had been introduced at a time when there had been a "significant disparity" in pensioner incomes which had now been addressed.

"This is a real challenge that faces us. This is a challenge that has been ducked by governments for too long," she said..

"We are going to take away the worry of people about how they are going to pay for their care and whether their savings are going to be depleted to virtually nothing.

"What we believe in is, yes, ensuring we are providing a system that provides people with dignity in their old age but doing it in a way that is fair across the generations."

However Sir Andrew Dilnot, whose review of social care led to the cap on costs which is now to be abandoned, said that the changes would leave people unable to plan for the future.

"There's nothing you can do to protect yourself against care costs, you can't insure it because the private sector won't insure it, and by refusing to implement the cap that Conservatives are now saying they're not going to provide social insurance for it," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"So people will be left helpless knowing that what will happen is if they're unlucky enough to suffer the need for care costs, they'll be entirely on their own until they're down to the last £100,000, all of their wealth including their house."

"The analogy is a bit like saying to somebody you can't insure your house against burning down, if it does burn down then you're completely on your own, you have to pay for all of it until you're down to the last £100,000 of all your assets and income," he said.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Danny Lawson / PA Wire.