Boris Johnson is facing a revolt from furious Tory MPs over plans that will force many of England’s poorest pensioners to pay more for social care.
Tory ministers have sneaked out changes to their care cap which will cut £900m a year from people with less than £186,000 in assets.
Labour research shows the shake-up will hit the average home in 107 constituencies in northern England – and zero in the south.
Now Tory backbenchers, already mutinous over the Government’s broken promises on Northern rail and over Tory sleaze, are pushing Mr Johnson to U-turn on the plans.
If ministers don’t back down, a vote is due in the Commons tomorrow or Tuesday over the plans as part of the Health and Care Bill.
Reports suggest some Tory MPs who won ex-Labour seats in 2019 could rebel. One ‘Red Wall’ MP said: ‘It’s an inheritance tax on the North.’
Tory MP Christian Wakeford slammed the care cap changes saying: “We’re changing the goalposts halfway through the match”.
He told Times Radio: “One of the main messages for introducing this levy was ‘you won’t need to sell your house for care’.
“To get to that point where unfortunately you might need to, and arguably our least well-off, it’s not something I’m particularly comfortable with.”
Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street)
Former Cabinet minister Robert Buckland warned there was “a lot of concern” on the Tory benches over the plans – after angry Tories reportedly ‘monstered’ a minister on Friday.
He told LBC: “I think the Government should look again at this.
“We’re in danger of putting the cart before the horse.
“It’s far better to actually publish the social care white paper first so we can see what the new proposals are. What is the system that we’re going to be funding. Let’s have a look at that first.”
Anyone who pays for care will see their payments count towards a £86,000 cap on lifetime contributions from October 2023.
The first care residents are set to hit the cap around two years later.
But under the new proposed change, it will take much longer for low-income people who receive state help to reach the cap.
That is because only the amount they actually pay themselves – not the state help they get – will count towards the £86,000 total.
Department of Health and Social Care analysis admits this is “a change” from previous proposals – and is less generous, saving the state £900m a year from 2027 compared to what was planned.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid insisted the social care cap will lead to “a much fairer, much more generous system”.
He claimed “everyone, it doesn’t matter where they live in the country, will be better off” under the Government’s new social care plans.
But asked about that manifesto commitment that no one would have to sell their home to pay for care, he claimed they would not have to “in their lifetime,” because of deferred payment agreements.
And his own department’s document admits some people will be worse off than they would have been under previous proposals.
A care user who started with £140,000 of assets will lose 31% of them after 97 weeks in care – the average length of stay. Under previously-proposed reforms in 2015, that same person would have lost 28% of their assets in the same amount of time.
The difference is even starker for those who spend 10 years in care, though the government insists only 2% of care users survive this long.
A chart in the document suggests someone with just over £100,000 of wealth will lose around 70% of it in a decade, compared to just under 60% under previously proposed reforms.
The government insists other people will be better off under the new plans.
Someone with starting wealth of £220,000 – the estimated median wealth of over-65s – will lose 38% of it over a decade. That compares to 49% under previous reform plans and 91% under the current system.
But with an average care stay of 97 weeks, the plans appear to suggest the vast majority of poorer care users will die before hitting the cap.
Economist Sir Andrew Dilnot – the architect of social care reform who proposed a cap on what people pay towards care in a 2011 report – has said he was “very disappointed” with the Government’s stealthy change in the small print.
He had said those with fewer assets “will not see any benefit” from the new funding structure, with the Government set to make savings “exclusively” from this group.
People will get state help to pay for their care once their assets dip below £100,000 in total, including their home.
Together with an £86,000 cap, that means anyone with assets of less than £186,000 will be affected by the latest change.
Labour said constituencies likely to be hit hardest include Workington (average home value £160,000), Barrow-in-Furness (£155,000), Don Valley (£155,000), Redcar (£133,000) and Bishop Auckland (£125,000).
Homeowners in the North East will be particularly badly affected, with average prices under £186,000 in nearly 90% of constituencies.
Liz Kendall, Shadow Minister for Social Care, said: “The Tories are imposing a punishing tax hike on ordinary people that does nothing to ensure more get the care they need.
“Instead their plans for social care have been exposed as a con that only protects the homes of the wealthiest.
“Now we know even fewer people with low and modest assets will be protected from having to sell their homes to pay for their care.”