The government’s changes to the plans it announced in September are likely to disadvantage the poorest, particularly those living in the north
“The government claims that ‘everyone is better off’ under this rule change but, looking at the detail, it is difficult to see how this fits with the wider levelling up agenda, let alone a fair solution to the cap.” Greg Allen, CEO, FCC
The government has announced a change to its plan to reform social care, which critics say will hit poor people particularly hard.
In September, the government said that, from October 2023, no one would be required to pay more than £86,000 over their lifetime for the cost of care for tasks such as washing, dressing and eating. (Care home living costs, however, would not count towards the cap. These include food, energy bills and accommodation.)
Under this original plan, people with assets less than £20,000 would not have to contribute anything to their care. People with assets of up to £100,000 would also be eligible for some means-tested financial support.
The government has now said it will introduce an amendment so that only the amount a person personally contributes to those costs will count towards the £86,000 cap. Nothing the government contributes will count towards the cap.
What this means in practice is that an older person living, for example, in the north of England in a house worth £95,000, and who qualifies for council help, will end up paying the same for their care as someone living in a £400,000 house in Berkshire who doesn’t qualify for means-tested assistance.
According to the government’s announcement, the new scheme will ensure that people “do not reach the cap at an artificially faster rate than what they contribute”. It claims that the “much more generous means test” is the “main means of helping people with lower levels of assets.”
Torsten Bell, director of the Resolution Foundation thinktank, said: “if you own a £1m house in the home counties, over 90% of your assets are protected. If you’ve got a terrace house in Hartlepool worth £70,000 you can lose almost everything.”
The government’s proposals will need to be voted on by parliament. Bell said: “I’m really not sure the government’s thought this through. They might not actually win the vote – Conservative MPs in [the] north and Midlands have just been told the cap on care costs will do far less for their constituents who could still lose almost everything.”
Sally Warren, director of policy at the King’s Fund thinktank, was also critical: “These changes will mean that the people who need the most protection from catastrophically high care costs – those with low to moderate levels of wealth – will get less protection than wealthier people.”
Andrew Dilnot, who originally proposed the cap on social care costs, explicitly ruled out the system the government is now proposing, on the grounds that it was unfair to poorer people.
Greg Allen, CEO of FCC, commented: “The government claims that ‘everyone is better off’ under this rule change but, looking at the detail, it is difficult to see how this fits with the wider levelling up agenda, let alone a fair solution to the cap.”