The Conservative government has been accused of “picking the pockets” of the country’s poorest pensioners following a change to its plans for the social care cap announced in September.
It was originally expected that the £86,000 limit for contributions would include support from local authorities towards people’s costs, how ever that had not been expressly confirmed by government.
However, the guidance published this week made clear that only payments people make out of their own pocket will count.
From October 2023, no-one starting care will pay more than £86,000 over their lifetime and no-one with assets of less than £20,000 will have to make any contribution from their savings or housing wealth – up from the current amount of £14,000.
When a person reaches the cap, the local authority becomes responsible for meeting the person’s eligible care and support needs and for paying the cost of the care needed to meet those needs.
Living costs and expenditure – such as food, energy bills and accommodation – would also not count towards the limit.
The threshold for securing support from the local council to pay for costs will also be increased to ensure people owning assets of up to £100,000 are able to qualify, rather than the current £23,250.
Cruel and misguided
The amendment has been slammed by Sir Andrew Dilnot who first proposed a cap on care costs as part of his report 10 years ago.
He told the Treasury Select Committee of MPs that the poorest people would be the ones to pay the most, particularly those who ended-up in care for a long time.
Government savings will come “exclusively from the less well-off group”, he told the committee.
“The people most harshly affected by this change will be those with assets of exactly £106,000 – that is, the £86,000 of cap plus £20,000 that is protected by the means tested system.”
Also responding to government’s plans, Rachel Harrison, national officer at trade union GMB, said “picking the pockets” of the poorest pensioners is “cruel, misguided and doesn’t really look like levelling up”.
“Social care is broken, with a staffing blackhole that could grow to 170,000 vacancies by the end of the year,” Harrison said. “Dedicated, minimum wage workers efforts’ are lining the pockets of private equity sharks.
“However we fund social care – and taking everything from those who have the least is not the way to do it – the system will continue to fail unless cash is ring-fenced for workers.
“That’s why GMB is campaigning for a £15 an hour minimum for care workers.”