May denies U-turn on ‘dementia tax’

May denies Uturn dementia tax
Theresa May. Photo: RollingNews.iePhoto: RollingNews.ie

Theresa May now says there will be ‘absolute limit’ on OAP care bills

Prime Minister Theresa May said this week that her controversial manifesto commitment on funding social care from the equity in users’ homes will now include an “absolute limit” on the money people will have to pay. A little over a fortnight from polling day she denied it was a U-turn and refused to say what the cap or ceiling would be.

The policy has proved to be hugely unpopular with Labour, Tory and Lib Dem voters alike and brought her considerable opinion poll lead down to single digits.

A huge proportion of the great wave of Irish people who emigrated to the UK between the early 1950s and 1960s fall into the age category in need of care that would be most directly affected.

Mrs May said she was only responding to what she said were “shameful” claims that people would be forced to sell their family home.

Dementia Tax

The Liberal Democrats successfully tagged the proposals a “dementia tax”. Labour and the Lib Dems said the policy was now “in meltdown”. The plans to make people receiving care at home liable for the full costs if they are worth, or have assets valued at, at least £100,000 were criticised by charities and pensioner groups who fear people will no longer be able to pass their homes down to their children if the value of their property is taken into account when calculating care costs.

The same groups did not offer any alternative proposals to fund the hugely increasing costs of caring for England’s ageing population.

At a rally in Wales Mrs May said her party is determined to save social care from collapsing under the pressures of an ageing society and decreasing funding. But, she promised, no-one would have to sell their home while they were alive to pay for care and people would still have “something to pass on to” their families after their deaths.

“We will make sure there’s an absolute limit on what people need to pay,” she said.

Anyone with savings and other assets worth more than £23,250 is expected to pay the full cost of their residential care. The value of their home can be taken into account. This does not apply to those receiving care in their own home.

Under Mrs May’s original proposal this would change and property values could, in future, be factored in with the money not taken from an estate until after an individual’s death with £100,000 of the estate protected so it may be left to heirs.

In 2011 economist Andrew Dilnot recommended a cap on lifetime total care costs of £35,000, after which people would be eligible for state support.

Deferred Limit

In the 2015 General Election the then Tory leader and Prime Minister David Cameron pledged a £72,000 limit, deferred until 2020. The newly proposed “cap”, hitherto unmentioned, was raised only four days after the Tory manifesto was published, in direct response to punishing headlines and hostility on the doorsteps.

Critics within her own party said the policy could become her own “poll tax”, citing the policy too far that terminally alienated her predecessor Margaret Thatcher from voters and her party in the late 1980s. Asked what level the cap would be set at Mrs May said it would be a matter for consultation if the Tories return to power next month.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said the policy remained broadly intact. But former chancellor George Osborne, who was unceremoniously sacked and humiliated by Theresa May when she became Tory leader and Prime Minister last year and who now edits London’s Evening Standard, tweeted it was a U-turn but “at least this manifesto wasn’t carved onto a stone”.

The latter was a swipe at former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband’s notorious ‘Ed Stone gimmick in the last General Election in which manifesto promises were literally set in stone.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mrs May’s announcement was a “triumph of spin over reality” and, in truth, her policy had actually changed very little and there was no “U turn”.


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