MPs have backed a change to the way the government’s cap on lifetime social care costs for people in England will work.
They supported excluding council support payments from the new £86,000 cap by 272 votes to 246.
Labour and other opposition parties argued this would will unfairly hit the poor, while some Conservatives raised doubts about the proposal.
But the PM insisted the new system would still be “incredibly generous”.
“We are finally tackling a problem that has bedevilled this country for many, many years,” Boris Johnson added.
The cap on personal care costs would mean that, from October 2023, no-one would pay more than £86,000 over their lifetime for assistance with tasks such as washing, dressing and eating.
Local authorities would meet costs beyond that point, which ministers say will be funded through a new health and social care tax.
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.
Several charities argue this will hit those with few assets the hardest.
‘It’s all gone’
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.”
By Alison Holt, social affairs editor
Behind arguments over the small print of the social care plans lie two key issues. Fairness and a concern that the government’s reforms will be chipped away at until they do little to transform long-neglected services for those who are older or disabled.
The introduction of an £86,000 limit on the costs a person pays towards their care will tackle an existing unfairness, particularly for those with dementia who can face bills running into tens of thousands of pounds.
But many experts argued the cap was set so high, it would provide limited help and favoured those who were wealthier.
Now they say the latest tweaks to the plans introduce a new unfairness, because less well-off people will have to pay a higher proportion of their money before they reach the cap. Separately, there are questions over whether enough extra money will be put into social care or whether the cash will be sucked up by the NHS.
By announcing reforms, ministers took an important step ducked by past governments, but after such a long wait scrutiny will be intense.
Labour and other opposition parties voted against the change, with the government working to limit any rebellion among Conservative MPs.
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said the change would be “manifestly unfair” for people with less valuable homes, while failing to protect people from “catastrophic costs”.
And former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper said he planned to vote against it, because it “potentially disadvantages the less well-off and those of working age with lifelong conditions”.
But Mr Johnson said the new system was “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.”
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.
How will you be affected by the cap on social care costs? Email: email@example.com.
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