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EXCL Senior minister: 'Dementia Tax' plan had 'more right about it than wrong'

Emilio Casalicchio

4 min read

A controversial plan to force elderly people to pay for the cost of their social care by selling their home had "more right about it than wrong", according to a government minister.

Small business minister Margot James said she regretted the fact the policy - dubbed a "dementia tax" by critics - had been "blown off course" after it was first announced.

Her comments emerged in the wake of footage showing social care minister Jackie Doyle-Price saying older people should not treat their homes as "an asset to give to their offspring".

The Tory manifesto plan would have seen the value of homes included in the calculations for means-testing contributions to social care costs above £100,000.

Theresa May was eventually forced into a humiliating climbdown midway through the election campaign when she announced there would in fact be a cap on the total charges.

Ministers are now reviewing social care policy and are expected to bring forward fresh social care proposals in due course.

But in interview with The House magazine ahead of the Conservative party conference, Stourbridge MP Ms James raised the prospect of the original plans being resurrected in some form.

“With the benefit of hindsight - if only we had announced that we would consult on a cap at the beginning I think it would have been judged a fair policy,” she said.

“My view is that we do need more money in social care and that money cannot all come from the taxpayer. There is this whole issue of intergenerational fairness as well.

“And I think we had some very good proposals around social care in that manifesto and it’s just a shame it got blown off course in the way it did.”

Ms James added: “I’ve heard people in the social care sector say as much - that we were on the right track… The policy had more right about it than wrong.”

At a Tory conference fringe event, Ms Doyle-Price said: "The reality is that the taxpayer shouldn’t necessarily be propping up people to keep their property and hand it on to their children when they’re generating massive care needs.”

And she added: “People are now well into their pension ages sitting in homes that really are too big for their needs and we really do need to start having those conversations about what’s appropriate earlier…

“We’ve got to a stage where people feel that they are the custodian of an asset to give to their offspring, but actually we need to get back to a stage where actually homes are for living in - they shouldn’t be seen as that.”

Responding to Ms Doyle-Price, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn blasted: “The idea of a ‘dementia tax’ was rightly rejected by the public during the General Election. It is appalling that the Tories still want to force older people to pay for care with their homes.

“Labour will provide hope for older people and treat them with the respect they deserve by investing an extra £8 billion in social care and establishing a National Care Service to reverse years of Tory decline.

“It can’t be right that if you have a heart condition you’re treated on the NHS but if you have dementia you have to pay with your home.”

He added: “This is further proof that the Conservatives are yesterday’s party, with no plan to fix our country’s problems. Labour stands ready to form a government that works for the many not the few."

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "Where people have care bills it is right that where people can contribute they do so. The PM is also clear is that where people have worked hard all their lives they should be able to pass on that on to their children."

"It is fair and right where people have worked hard all their lives to build up these assets that they can be passed on. This is complex issue with an ageing population. The Government has said it will be bringing forward proposals in due course."

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