Hunt: Slightly more stingy care cap change still preferable to current situation

·4-min read
MPs are debating social care reforms (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Archive)
MPs are debating social care reforms (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Archive)

Former health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt has appealed to MPs who may rebel over the Government’s social care cap, saying the “slightly more stingy” measure is still a “step in the right direction”.

The Conservative MP said the recent change to how the cap will be calculated is “really disappointing” but the proposals are still preferable to the current situation, where there is no limit to how much people could pay for their care.

He said that MPs who are considering voting against the plans later on Monday should remember that future Governments could change the cap to make it more progressive once it is in place.

In September the Government announced key reforms, including an £86,000 lifetime cap from October 2023, to be funded through a health and social care levy based on tax contributions.

This is a step in the right direction, even if you know it is a disappointment that it's not going to be as progressive as people hoped

Jeremy Hunt

People with assets up to £20,000 will not have to contribute anything to their care (up from £14,250), while those with assets to £100,000 will be eligible to receive some local authority support (up from £23,250).

Last week, it emerged that only people’s individual contributions will go towards the cap, with means-tested funding not counting.

Critics have said this change means poorer pensioners who have prolonged care costs, including those living in the North and in areas with lower house prices, would have to pay more as a share of their assets and for longer.

The Prime Minister has been warned that some Conservative MPs will not support the new policy.

Mr Hunt said: “It is very disappointing that the way the cap is going to be calculated is going to be changed, which means that it’s going to be a less progressive measure than was hoped for, and will help fewer people with lower asset levels than had been previously hoped for, and that is a really big disappointment.

“But, to people who are thinking of voting against the Government, all I would say is that once this cap has been introduced at this current level, it will be entirely open to governments in the future to change the way the cap is calculated to make it more progressive going forward.

“And I think the really important thing is that we have a cap which we didn’t have before.

“So we have a system in place, we can then have a grown-up political debate about the level that the cap should operate on.

“But would I choose to have the slightly more stingy cap that the Government’s introduced, as opposed to having no cap at all? Absolutely, I would.

“This is a step in the right direction, even if you know it is a disappointment that it’s not going to be as progressive as people hoped.”

Former health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt (PA) (PA Archive)
Former health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt (PA) (PA Archive)

He was speaking alongside care minister Gillian Keegan and Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, at the County Council Network’s annual conference on Monday.

Mr Hunt said he is also concerned about the long-term financial stability for social care, which he said is not clear.

Some £5.4 billion out of £36 billion raised by the new levy will go towards social care over the next three years, which he said is “significantly less” than the annual funding the committee he chairs had recommended.

Ms Keegan said there is an “expectation” that more money from the levy will be directed towards social care after this period, but could not say how much.

She was also told about concerns that care homes could close as a result of changes that will see self-funders, who have traditionally paid more than those who get financial support, able to ask their local authority to arrange better value care.

The minister said it is not sustainable to have such an “uneven” set-up, adding: “The funding model definitely will need to evolve, but fundamentally the one we’ve got today is not sustainable.

“It isn’t fair and people quite frankly will start to resent, as more and more people understand what’s going on, this cross-subsidy and therefore we do have to do something about it.”

Ms Keegan said she had been reading a draft of the upcoming White Paper on further social care reforms over the weekend, but did not give a time frame for its publication.

It is expected later this year.

Ms Rayner said social care is facing “huge pressures right now that the reform agenda outlined by the Government does nothing to address”.

She said an NCF member which provides home care reported that team members had been in tears because a lack of staff meant they could not provide care over the weekend.

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