Conservative manifesto: Social care shake-up in Theresa May's plans

An elderly man being cared for

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The Tories are proposing to tackle the “unfairness” in the care system

Theresa May will promise to address the rising cost of social care in England and curb immigration when she launches the Conservative manifesto later.

It will promise no-one will have to sell their property in their lifetime to fund residential or home care.

Instead, the cost of care will be taken from their estate – if it is worth at least £100,000 – when they die.

Ex-government adviser Sir Andrew Dilnot said it was “very disappointing” for those anxious about the issue.

The changes proposed are that the value of someone’s property would be included in the means test for receiving free care in their own home – currently only their income and savings are taken into account.

The plan is that these people, and people in residential care – whose property is already taken into account in the means test – will be able to defer paying for their care until after their death.

There will also be an increase in the amount of wealth someone can have – savings and the value of their home – from the current £23,250 to £100,000 before they lose the right to free care.

That means that however much is spent on social care, it becomes free once someone is down to their last £100,000.

Sir Andrew Dilnot produced a report on the social care system for the Coalition government in 2011, which recommended that individuals’ contributions to their care costs should be capped at £35,000.

“There’s nothing you can do to protect yourself against care costs. You can’t insure it because the private sector won’t insure it and by refusing to implement a cap, the Conservatives are now saying that they’re not going to provide social insurance for it,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Social care: the winners and losers

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By Nick Triggle, BBC health correspondent

What the Conservatives have proposed for elderly care is pretty complex.

They are changing certain thresholds as well as what can be defined as assets and how long you wait before you have to pay your bill.

But in the end it can be summed up pretty easily – they want people to pay more towards the cost of their care.

Some elements of their plans sound generous and certainly some people will benefit, but large numbers won’t.

Why? Because we are a nation of homeowners and these plans make sure that whatever sort of care you need, the value of your home can be taken into account.

Read more from Nick here.

How social care is funded across the UK

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt defended the manifesto proposal, telling BBC Breakfast: “Everyone will have the security of knowing that they can pass on £100,000 to their children and grandchildren. At the moment, you can be cleaned out to as little as £23,000 so that’s four times more.”

“We are saying to pay for that there’s a trade-off,” Mr Hunt added.

In other proposals the manifesto will stop winter fuel payments to better-off pensioners – at the moment, all pensioners qualify for one-off payments of between £100 and £300 each winter.

And it is expected that the so-called “triple lock” on pensions is to become a “double lock” with the state pension to rise by the higher of average earnings or inflation – but to no longer go up by 2.5% if they are both lower than that.

There will be a promise to spend an extra £4bn on schools in England by 2022 – partly funded by an end to the current provision of free school lunches for all infant pupils in England.

Measures on immigration include asking firms to pay more to hire migrant workers, who will in turn be asked to pay more to use the NHS.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said Mrs May would put forward an “uncompromising” message on immigration, saying high levels can harm community cohesion, and would re-commit to bringing net migration down to the tens of thousands.

Also expected on immigration:

  • Commitment to “bear down on immigration from outside the EU” across all visa routes
  • Reduce and control immigration from Europe after Brexit
  • Sources say this means “the end of freedom of movement”
  • Doubling of the “Skills Charge” from £1,000 to £2,000 per employee per year for employers who hire non-EU immigrants in skilled jobs
  • The revenue will go into skills training for UK workers
  • Non-EU migrants to pay more to use the NHS
  • Rule out removing students from the immigration statistics

The plan to stick with the net migration target has caused controversy, with critics saying it will be nearly impossible to meet without doing damage to the economy.

Net migration, the difference between people coming to the UK for more than a year and those leaving, stood at 273,000 in the year to last September. It was last below 100,000 in 1997.

An editorial in Wednesday’s Evening Standard – whose editor is former Chancellor George Osborne – suggested ministers were dismissive of the target in private, believing it to be unrealistic.

Analysis by Laura Kuenssberg, BBC political editor

Don’t expect hearts and flowers. The manifesto will not be presented as a description of a land where milk and honey flows. But rather look for a hard-headed assessment of the country’s problems, wrapped up in arguments about why Theresa May is the person to fix them.

Against the logic put forward by many of her colleagues, she will stick to a tough message on immigration – UKIP voters who could turn Tory ever in mind.

She will present solutions on social care that in one way or another will mean more people have to pay more, and she’ll means test some pensioner benefits to do it too. There is a big risk in limiting some free school meal provision.

Theresa May wants to be seen as tough, she does not want to be labelled harsh, or cruel. But even before the manifesto is fully published, the Lib Dems have labelled her “the lunch snatcher” – a reference to Mrs Thatcher “milk snatcher” who ended free school milk in the seventies.

Read Laura’s thoughts in full.

Launching the manifesto in Yorkshire later, Mrs May will say her party will not shirk the challenges facing the country, whether they be over Brexit or social policy.

She will call for “unity of purpose” as Brexit negotiations begin in earnest, saying the country faces the most “challenging” period in her lifetime.

“It is the responsibility of leaders to be straight with people about the challenges ahead and the hard work required to overcome them.”

In an article for the Sun, the prime minister said she was determined to cut the cost of living for ordinary working families, keep taxes low and “intervene when markets are not working as they should”.

Labour said the Conservatives had broken 50 promises over the past two years on living standards, NHS spending, school funding and the deficit, and could not be trusted.

The SNP, meanwhile, said Theresa May wanted a “free hand to dismantle the welfare state and to push through their reckless plans for a hard Brexit which threaten jobs, investment and livelihoods.”

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