Theresa May ally Damian Green urges Tories to hike National Insurance on over-50s to fix social care crisis
People over the age of 50 should be made to pay at least £300-a-year more in National Insurance to help solve Britain's "pressing" social care funding crisis, a senior ally of Theresa May has said.
Conservative MP Damian Green, who led government work on social care before he was forced to resign from the Cabinet in 2017, backed the "last resort" 1% hike in controbutions.
But Labour quickly dismissed the plan - outlined in a new report for the Centre for Policy Studies - as a tax on ageing.
Mr Green said the UK was currently facing a "financially and political unsustainable" £2.75bn funding gap for social care.
His report calls for a new state pensions-style "Universal Care Entitlement", which would guarantee everyone a "safety net" of support that could be topped up by personal savings or housing wealth.
In a bid to fund the plan, Mr Green urged ministers to consider taxing the winter fuel allowance, shifting savings from other departments in the upcoming Whitehall-wide Spending Review, and imposing the 1% NI hike on those aged over 50.
"Taxing the winter fuel payment and taking it away from those who are higher rate taxpayers, allied to either a National Insurance top-up or wider Government savings, would inject £2.75 billion into the system targeted only at residential and nursing care," the report said.
Mr Green added: "The crisis in our social care system is one of the most pressing issues our country currently faces.
"It causes acute problems for the wider NHS, with 1.98 million delayed transfers in 2017/18 for those moving out of NHS care. The Conservative Party has an urgent need to show that it has ideas about vital domestic policy issues such as this.
"That why I propose a wholesale change in our approach to social care, mirroring the state pension system with the introduction of a universal care entitlement and care supplement.
"By combining this new system with an increase in funding we will be able to tackle this most intractable of political dilemmas fairly and responsibly."
But Labour pounced on the report and urged the Conservatives to rule out a rise in taxes for the elderly.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: "After nearly a decade of brutal cuts to social care, the Tories now want to make older people pay through increased taxes.
"We want to hear today a clear statement from the government that they will reject this call, protect the triple lock, and follow Labour’s call to fund social care properly.
"Anything less than a clear rejection of these plans to punish older people, and the voters will need to draw their own conclusions."
The row comes ahead of the publication of the Government's long-delayed social care green paper, which Mr Green started work on before he was asked to step down from the Cabinet.
The publication, which was finally due to be unveiled on 1 April after being first promised at the March 2017 Budget, is now slated only for publication in "due course".