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Government accused of sneaking out changes to social care cap

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

MPs have backed Boris Johnson’s social care cap despite warnings that the way it is calculated will disproportionately hit England’s poorer pensioners.

In September, the government announced that from October 2023 the most anyone will have to pay for personal care in England will be £86,000.

Last night (Monday), MPs backed an amendment to the Health and Care Bill, which will stop council support payments counting towards the £86,000 limit. The amendment was supported by 272 votes to 246.

The cap will cover fees for personal care, like help with washing and dressing. It will not cover living costs such as care home fees, food or utility bills. Labour and other opposition parties rejected the plan, with 19 Tory MPs also rebelling against the government.

The government says the bill leaves people in a much better position than they would be under the current system. However, others accused the government of sneaking the changes out.

Under the government’s social care plan from October 2023 anyone with assets of less than £20,000 will not have to pay anything from these towards care fees – although they might have to pay from their income.

People with more than £100,000 in assets won’t get any financial help from the council, while those with assets between £20,000 and £100,000 will qualify for council help, but will have to pay £86,000 out of their own pocket to reach the cap.

Helen Morrissey, senior pensions and retirement analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The government was accused of sneaking out changes to the Health and Care Bill that means those with less will lose a far higher proportion of their savings.

“The changes include the fact that only the amount the individual pays for care will count towards the cap. Government protestations that overall, the package puts people in a better position than under the current system, were greeted with scepticism and multiple calls for an impact assessment to be published before the bill completes its passage.”

Experts say that as it currently stands, the amendment comes as a huge blow to anyone with lower levels of assets, especially people in the North, where house prices tend to be lower than in the South.

An average house price of £114,000 was quoted for Blackpool South. Someone living in this type of property stands to lose a far greater proportion of their assets under these changes than someone living in a £500,000 property in the South.

Morrissey said: “The £86,000 cap will undoubtedly help contain the amount people have to pay for care but the fact that this does not cover so called hotel costs means those in care and their families still need to battle hugely unpredictable costs on an ongoing basis. While a relatively short-term care need may be manageable, those with a long-term care need continue to face difficult times.”