Social care: MPs back change to funding of £86,000 cost cap

An elderly lady sits with her arm around a loved one in a nursing home in Newcastle upon Tyne

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MPs have backed a change to government’s social care reforms, despite opponents warning that poor households would end up paying more.

The House of Commons backed plans to stop council support payments counting towards the new £86,000 cap on lifetime care costs – by 272 votes to 246.

Labour and other opposition parties rejected the plan, with 19 Tory MPs rebelling against the government.

But the PM insisted the new system would still be “incredibly generous”.

Under the plan, anyone with assets of less than £20,000 will not have to pay anything towards the cost of help with things like washing and dressing at home or a stay in a care home from October 2023.

Those with assets worth more than £100,000 pay everything up to a maximum of £86,000.

People with assets of £100,000 or less can qualify for council help to pay but the new change means they will eventually have to pay up to £86,000 out of their own pocket too.

The 26-vote margin in favour of the government’s amendment to the Health and Care Bill comes despite it having an 80-strong majority in the Commons.

The Tory rebels included former senior ministers Esther McVey and Mark Harper, while 70 more Conservative MPs had no vote recorded, either because they abstained or were unable to take part.

Local authorities would meet costs beyond the £86,000 cap, which ministers say will be funded through a new health and social care tax.

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PM faces more challenges

Analysis box by Laura Kuenssberg, political editor

After a self-proclaimed mistake over sleaze that led to a fortnight of grisly headlines, and howls of complaint about plans for the railways last week, Boris Johnson’s appearance at an important annual business conference could have been a moment to reassert his authority, to remind his backbenchers what the might of a leader with an 80-seat majority looks like.

But that is really not what panned out. If anything the day gave his backbench troops a painful visual metaphor to agonise over of a prime minister, leafing through the pages of his prepared speech, asking for forgiveness because he has quite literally lost his place.

And on Monday night he faced more challenge from his own side over the less generous than expected plans for care for the elderly and vulnerable.

The vote was not lost, but the chunky number of quiet abstentions tell a story of their own.

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Under the new plans, money spent on living costs such as food, bills and accommodation would not count towards the limit.

The threshold for getting some council support to pay for costs will be more generous, with people with assets up to £100,000 able to qualify, rather than £23,250 currently.

But the government announced last week that only the payments people made out of their own pocket – not those from councils – would count towards the cap.

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‘Nobody thinks it will happen to them’

Lorraine and her mother Roma

Lorraine Hershon

Lorraine Hershon from Northumberland says her mother Roma, who lives in a care home, has spent “every penny that she ever earned” on care.

Despite selling her house and drawing on her savings, a total bill of £140,000 and rising has left Roma unable to afford items such as new slippers and clothes, she adds.

She says for her mother, 83, selling her home was “probably the worst thing ever”.

“She was a single parent, she worked night and day to have her own home – and then it’s all gone,” Lorraine adds.

“Nobody thinks it will happen to them… They have no idea the system is there to suck every penny out of you, regardless of your circumstances.”

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After the vote result, Labour’s Liz Kendall, shadow minister for social care, said: “Tory MPs broke the promise they were elected on that nobody would have to sell their home to pay for care.

“Instead they voted to tax ordinary working people, while the wealthiest in our country are unaffected.”

But Boris Johnson said the new system would be “progressive” and “much better” than the existing one.

“Under the existing system nobody gets any support if they have assets of £23,000 or more – now you get support if you have £100,000 or less, so we’re helping people,” he said.

He added: “We’re addressing a longstanding social injustice and it will benefit the people of this country.”

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How will the social care cap work?

  • Every adult receiving care will have an account measuring how much they spend on care fees from their own income or assets
  • Those with total assets worth more than £100,000 will have to pay all the care fees themselves
  • Once assets fall below £100,000, people will be able to claim means-tested payments from their council to help with costs
  • If they cannot pay for care from their income, they will have to contribute £1 for every £250 they have in assets
  • Care home fees – such as for food and rent – will not count towards the £86,000 limit but will be capped at £200 a week
  • People with assets under £20,000 won’t have to contribute to their care costs, although they might have to contribute from their income.

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