Election 2017

General election 2017: Tories 'won't look again' at social care plans

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionDamian Green says a £100,000 inheritance is "reasonable"

Damian Green has said the Conservatives will not "look again" at plans to fund social care in England, despite fears they will be unpopular with voters.

The Tory manifesto says elderly people needing care at home would have to meet the costs but could keep £100,000 after the bill is deducted from their estate.

The work and pensions secretary told the BBC it would still be "a reasonable inheritance" to pass on to dependants.

Labour said the plan would leave people "on their own" and should be pulled.

The policy scraps a planned £72,000 cap on care costs paid by the individual. The Tories argue that allowing people to keep a "floor" of £100,000 of assets which cannot be touched is fairer.

Live updates: Sunday political interviews

Reality check: Who could social care changes affect?

Tory opposition to social care plans

Labour steps up push for pensioner vote

Conservative ministers have been defending the policy, arguing PM Theresa May is showing "bravery" by tackling the issue, and that a balance has to be struck between costs funded by the individual and those funded by the taxpayer.

But Conservative think tank the Bow Group has warned it could be the "biggest stealth tax in history", and Labour has accused the Tories of "attacks on older people", citing the social care plan as well as curbs on winter fuel payments and the downgrading of the "triple lock" on the state pension.

Four opinion polls for Sunday newspapers suggest that, while the Conservatives retain a big lead, support for Labour has increased.

Analysis by the BBC's Susana Mendonca

Elderly voters who own their own homes tend to be fertile ground for Tory support. But a social care plan that would see those people's homes sold off to pay for their care after death - meaning their children couldn't inherit those properties - was always going to be a difficult one to sell to this crucial group of voters.

Today Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green defended it saying that £100,000 was a "reasonable amount of inheritance". That's the amount up to which the government would fund a person's care under the plans.

But with a lot of properties worth a lot more than that, it has drawn criticism.

Labour has taken the opportunity to make its pitch for the grey vote, promising more social care spending and a cap of £72,000 on how much anyone would need to pay, while the Lib Dems have accused the government of introducing a "dementia tax".

With speculation over whether the cabinet is fully signed up to the Tories' new social care plan, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been batting off suggestions that the cabinet didn't have a say in a policy that is likely to prove uncomfortable for Tories to sell on the doorstep.

On plans to means-test the winter fuel payment - a sum of between £100 and £300 for those who reach the state pension age - in England and Wales, Mr Green told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show those "in genuine need" would continue to get it and the money saved would go into social care.

The exact threshold for cut-off would be subject to consultation, he added.

Mr Green said the social care cap system that had been due to come in in 2020 would have unfairly benefited those with the most expensive estates to pass on.

"It's got to work for everyone, not just in Ashford and Twickenham, but also in Hartlepool," he said.

"Allowing everyone to know that there is this flat figure of £100,000 is fair to everyone."

He stressed a £100,000 inheritance was still "four times as good" as being left with £23,250 - the current threshold over which residential care costs must be funded.

"Everyone knows there will be a decent inheritance for them, nobody will have to lose their home during their lifetime or the lifetime of their surviving spouse."

Asked if the Tories might reconsider the plans given the criticism, Mr Green said: "No... we have set out this policy, which we're not going to look at again."

He said there would be a green paper covering both social care and health "coming out in the summer".

How would the Tory social care plans work?

Image copyright ForMed Films

Under the Conservative plans nobody with assets of less than £100,000 would have to pay for social care. Currently anyone with assets of over £23,250 is expected to pay the full cost of their residential care and the value of their home can be taken into account.

But that is not the case if you receive care in your own home. Under the Tory plans the value of your home may in future be factored in, although the money would not be taken from your estate until after your death.

This means some people fear they will not be able to pass their homes down to their children.

Why many will pay more for care

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said a cap on privately funded costs - rather than a "floor" - was a better system.

"What we want to make sure, just like the NHS, is there is pooled risk so everybody is certain.

"That's why we supported Dilnot but we also supported a cross-party approach because we have got to have something that is sustainable over generations."

But the policy was defended by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on ITV's Peston's Politics as a "sensible, grown-up Conservative approach" to dealing with the "massive problem" of the long-term cost of social care.

Asked about the disparity between costs faced by someone with dementia, as compared with a someone who had suffered a stroke, for example, he said: "I do understand people's reservations and the questions that people are asking about some of the detail of this.

"But the broad thrust is right, as the prime minister as said, there will be a consultation on getting it right."

'Dementia tax'

And the Conservative former cabinet minister Ken Clarke told BBC Radio 4's World This Weekend the policy was "free market economics with a social conscience" and the alternative was for younger taxpayers to pick up the bill.

He said: "The idea that instead of somebody living in a half a million, million pound house, contributing to their own care, younger people of working age who can't afford to buy a house should actually pay more tax - because that's what will happen to actually provide the quantity of social care that we need - is grossly unfair," he said.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "What we are seeing this weekend is the Conservatives under growing pressure because they have chosen a dementia tax."

"If you or your loved one has or will get dementia, they are coming for you".

Get news from the BBC in your inbox, each weekday morning

Related Topics