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May backtracks on care funding policy with promise of cap

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The prime minister has promised a future Conservative government would introduce a cap on care costs, after her manifesto proposals for the funding of social care sparked a collapse in her party’s poll lead over the weekend.

Speaking in Wales this morning, Theresa May said the cap will be included in the forthcoming “green paper” on the future of social care expected in the autumn. However, she declined to say how much it would be worth.

“We are proposing the right funding model for social care”

Theresa May

Under plans unveiled in the party’s election manifesto last Thursday, individuals would be asked to pay for their own care until they have £100,000 left in assets, including property. The costs will be recouped following a person’s death.

The policy has been dubbed a “dementia tax” by some parts of the media due to the likelihood those who suffer from the condition stand to lose the most in value of their assets due to the high costs and often long term nature of care required.

Following the publication of the manifesto, the Conservative’s poll lead over Labour almost halved to nine points, according to a YouGov survey for the Sunday Times this weekend.

In her speech this morning, Ms May accused Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of “fake claims, fear and scare mongering” over the Tory proposals.

She said: ”I want to make a further point clear. This manifesto says that we will come forward with a consultation paper, a government green paper. And that consultation will include an absolute limit on the amount people have to pay for their care costs.”

She added: “We are proposing the right funding model for social care. We will make sure nobody has to sell their family home to pay for care. We will make sure there’s an absolute limit on what people need to pay. And you will never have to go below £100,000 of your savings, so you will always have something to pass on to your family.”

Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s shadow work and pensions spokeswoman, called on the Conservatives to ”come clean” about their plans for older people, claiming that Ms May had “caused confusion” with a “failed attempt to ‘clarify’ their social care policy”.

“Yesterday, they attempted to back away from their plans, but only raised more questions about what they were going to do instead,” she said. “They could offer no reassurance to worried pensioners.

“We are today calling for Theresa May to come clean, set out what exactly she’s planning,” she added.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said “nothing has changed” on Conservative social care policy, despite Ms May’s announcement.

“As Theresa May has made clear herself, nothing has changed and her heartless dementia tax remains in place,” he said. “Theresa May still wants to take older people’s homes to fund social care.”

The party highlighted that the Conservative manifesto made no mention of a cap on social care costs.

But Adam Lent, director of the New Local Government Network, said the prime minister’s announcement potentially introduced “much greater certainty and fairness” to the manifesto proposals.

“A single health and care system, paid for through a mix of public and private funding, is essential”

Chris Ham

He added: “However, the level of the cap will be all important as well as what arrangements are put in place to sustainably fund local provision upfront and share the rising costs of care.”

Chris Ham, chief executive of the King’s Fund, said: “We welcome the prime minister’s announcement that the green paper later this year will include a proposal for a cap on social care costs as a way of limiting the catastrophic costs people risk incurring.

“The green paper should be used as an opportunity to achieve greater intergenerational equity,” he said. “As the Barker Commission argued in its 2014 report on a new health and care settlement, current and future generations of pensioners should be contributing more to the cost of a new settlement through tax and national insurance.

“A single health and care system, paid for through a mix of public and private funding, is essential to tackle the unfairness of existing arrangements, and to overcome the lottery of care being based on diagnosis rather than need,” he added.

Meanwhile, Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards said: “It is good that these proposals now include a lifetime cap. This goes some way to addressing one of the big problems with the social care system, which is that the neediest can pay a very disproportionate amount for their care.

“There are no easy solutions to the failures of successive governments to get to grips with this issue, but this proposal as set out by Sir Andrew Dilnot could form part of a better system,” he said.

He added: “The crucial remaining questions are at what level the cap is set, and whether it will be backed by the additional funding needed to make it work.”

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