Theresa May’s former deputy has made a fresh attempt to solve the UK’s social care crisis with a series of controversial proposals that include imposing new taxes on older people and a private insurance model to top up a universal level of state care.
Damian Green, a longtime ally of Mrs May, made the recommendations in a policy paper that is likely to be considered by the prime minister as she draws up a long-delayed green paper on social care.
Mr Green suggested that an extra £2.75bn be pumped into the system immediately, possibly through a tax on the winter fuel allowance — payable to those over 65 years old — a 1 per cent national insurance surcharge on the over-50s, or savings from other areas of public spending.
Mrs May’s lack of appetite to return to the social care issue reflects the fact that it helped to wreck her 2017 election campaign; the Tory manifesto included a policy, swiftly abandoned, dubbed the “dementia tax”.
The social care paper was due to have been published on April 1, but is now scheduled only for publication in “due course”, as the government grapples with the political paralysis caused by Brexit.
Mr Green, the former first secretary of state who commissioned the green paper, has dropped the controversial 2017 manifesto commitment under which only the last £100,000 of a person’s assets would have been safe if they needed long-term and expensive care.
In his paper for the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank, entitled Fixing the Care Crisis, he adopts a different approach, proposing that in the longer term the government would provide a “decent standard of care” through a new Universal Care Entitlement, but people would be encouraged to put money aside through an insurance scheme to pay for higher levels of care.
“What I propose is that the Universal Care Entitlement should be accompanied by an optional Care Supplement — a new form of insurance designed specifically to fund more extensive care costs in old age,” Mr Green wrote. This could include “larger rooms, better food, more trips, additional entertainment and so on”, he said.
He added: “The inspiration for this would be the private pension system, which sits alongside and supplements the state pension — and is, increasingly, the norm.”
Mr Green argues that this would create a sustainable system by ensuring a mix of public and private money going into the scheme. He said the care supplement would be “affordable and attractive to millions of those reaching retirement age”.
The problem facing an enfeebled Mrs May is that trying to push any legislation through parliament at the moment, let alone something as controversial as social care reform, is nigh on impossible.
Having vowed to tackle the problem in her 2017 manifesto, social care could end up once again being pushed back down the political agenda for a future parliament.