personal finance

Ministers defy Tory rebellion to push through social care cap amendment


Ministers have pushed through an amendment to England’s social care plans, which is set to disproportionately hit poorer pensioners, despite a sizeable rebellion from backbenchers.

The change means that council contributions to care fees would not go towards the cap, which means poorer people who get means-tested help would end up paying the same as richer people if they needed care for a significant amount of time.

It would save the government £900m a year by 2027, but would leave many poorer homeowners exposed to “catastrophic costs” including the need to sell their homes to fund care, analysts have said. The vote passed by 272 to 246, a majority of 26. There were 19 rebels for the Conservatives and 70 abstentions, of which only 13 were paired according to Labour.

Rebels included a number of Tories in northern seats likely to be hit hard by the changes, including 2019 intake MPs Christian Wakeford in Bury South, Holly Munby-Croft in Scunthorpe and Mark Jenkinson in Worthington.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said Tory MPs had “voted to break their promise that nobody would have to sell their homes to pay for their social care costs and voted to hammer poorer pensioners to protect millionaires in mansions”.

She tweeted: “It’s an inheritance tax on the north and a con, not a social care plan.”

Speaking in the Commons, the health minister, Edward Argar, defended the change, which goes against what was originally proposed by the architect of the cap, Sir Andrew Dilnot. “We’ve always intended that the cap applies to what people personally contribute, rather than on the combination of their personal contribution and that of the state,” he said.

Argar said, to roars of disapproval from the Labour benches, that “no one will lose from these reforms compared to the system we have now, and the overwhelming majority will win”.

Among the rebels was the former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper, who had urged ministers to withdraw the amendment. “It potentially disadvantages the less well-off and those of working age with lifelong conditions,” he said. “DHSC [Department of Health and Social Care] ministers haven’t properly worked with the sector or MPs to explain their thinking or decisions.”

The chair of the Treasury select committee said he had “real concerns” about the way the change had been made and said no geographical assessments had been made.

As anger mounted in Westminster, Downing Street and the business minister Paul Scully repeatedly refused to guarantee that no one will need to sell their home in order to pay for care.

“The social care solution is all about getting a cap above which you do not need to pay – that gives people certainty,” Scully told Sky News.

“If you hit the cap, you will not have to pay any more money for your personal care. I think that is a fair, balanced approach for taxpayers and people who are having to pay for what is a really expensive, at the moment, form of care through social care.”

Amid mounting tensions with backbenchers, cabinet ministers spent the afternoon ringing round MPs to stress that the details of the full social care package would mitigate the effects of the change and that a full impact assessment would be published.

In the Commons, Damian Green said that the government should publish an impact assessment. The former cabinet minister, who said he abstained on the vote, later said it was unclear whether the alteration to the cap for care costs is fair. He told BBC’s Newsnight: “The party wants to see a proper fair solution to social care that is fair around the country and in all areas of the country.

“And to put it as politely as I can, it’s not yet clear that this solution achieves that.”

Jeremy Hunt, chair of the Commons health and social care select committee, told colleagues it was better to vote through the plans in the hope that governments would in future make them fairer for people with fewer assets. Hunt said it was a “slightly more stingy cap” than had been hoped for, but that it was “a step in the right direction”.



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