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Tories pay-for-care 'suicide note' was another punch in the face for care recipients

3 min read

Lord Lipsey argues that the Government has 'wriggled out' of David Cameron's pledge that people will not have to sell their home to pay for care.

What can have possessed the prime minister and her advisers when they inserted their pay-for-care suicide note in their election manifesto? One possible explanation is that they thought it would not be noticed.

They had, after all, already punched care recipients full in the face – without, apparently, anyone much noticing. The first betrayal was of the Dilnot commission’s recommendation that a cap be put on what people had to pay towards their social care. This was first postponed for five years; and would, if the manifesto had not lost the Tories their majority, have been ditched for ever.

The second was more subtle. “Under this Government people will not have to sell their home to pay for care”, pledged David Cameron when prime minister. Pre-Cameron, a deferred payment scheme was already in place which partly met this pledge but it was left to individual local authorities many of whom proceeded with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. So Cameron nationalised the scheme. No doubt older people sighed with relief that the family home would not be sold off in their lifetime.

Yet the government’s scheme was a fraud. For it applied only to people who had less than £23,250 in non-housing assets. So if you had to go into care, you would need to run down your assets to that figure before you became eligible for the government’s deferred payments scheme. As some pointed out at the time, no sensible old person would do that, leaving themselves with an exiguous reserve to pay for what they might need if and when they went into care.

Some of us argued that this was a castrated deferred payments scheme which would fail. And ministers seemed to take the point: Earl Howe, on the third reading of the relevant bill in the Lords, gave a near pledge that the £23,250 would be revised. On that too he and his government did a U-turn and the scheme went through as the government had planned.

The press did not notice. If the public noticed it kept its lips sealed. Yet experts understood what had happened. The Government had wriggled out of David Cameron’s pledge.

We were gazing into the crystal but now we can read the book. Reform, a think tank, published in March its assessment of the role of deferred payment agreements. According to the authors, William Mosseri-Marlio and Denail Vasilev, the Department of Health estimated that the new scheme would increase take up from 4,000 in 2012 to 12,300 (central estimate) in 2015-16. In fact, it hovers around 3,600. And that of course by definition excludes all the self-funders who would have taken advantage of the scheme if the government had not inserted the punitive £23,250 means test.

So far, this has gone largely unnoticed. I hope to change this on Thursday when I introduce a short debate in the House of Lords. For the government had misled parliament and lied to the public. It needs to be exposed.

Lord Lipsey is a Labour peer in the House of Lords

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